A majestic species that can reach widths of 18 feet, reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) are often seen gliding over tropical reefs in large numbers, notes study leader Rob Perryman, a researcher for the Marine Megafauna Foundation.
Their feeding and courtship activities also occur in groups, which gave Perryman reason to suspect these animals are actually social butterflies. (Go inside the underwater world of manta rays with a National Geographic photographer.)
What’s more, their big brains—the related giant manta ray has the largest brain of all fish—hinted that reef mantas are “reasonably intelligent animals,” he says.
Five years of observation and study later, the study reveals that reef mantas actively choose “to socialize with other individuals that they know, and