Deciphering spot patterns in the Pacific Eagle Ray


Published: 24/07/2020

"Diego Fallas Madrigal".
Did you know that there's not a category for Aetobatus laticeps (Pacific Eagle Ray) in the IUCN Red List? It's because this specie still remain as A. narinari (DD, Data Deficient). This was its previous description, now they are separated as A. laticeps in the Pacific and A. narinari in the Atlantic.
With emphasis on A. laticeps, the white spots on its dorsal side serves as a fingerprint for identification, but there is information on this pattern that remains unused. Due the lack of information on this specie and its patterns, in the Biomolecular Lab (BIOMOL) we are carrying out a taxonomic revision of the white spots pattern on the dorsal surface of the Pacific Eagle Ray and a comparison along its distribution.
"Pacific Eagle Ray (Aetobatus laticepts), Cocos Island".Cocos Island
Our research involves different investigation sites. Those are located in the northern of Costa Rica and Cocos Island, México, and Ecuador. We collected samples in the northern of Costa Rica and added individuals from Cocos Island thanks to a collaboration with Diego Mejías (Locomotion Producciones), and also in México with Aetos ID. Ecuador’s individual were added thanks to a local researcher, and more samples from northern Costa Rica with the NGO Equipo Tora Carey – ETC.
"Pacific Eagle Ray (Aetobatus laticepts)".North Pacific Costa Rica
How do we counted the spots? Easy but with dedication, we used Adobe Photoshop and marked spot by spot with a pencil. With the Costa Rican samples we determined there are 17 different white spots. It should be noted that not all established spots will appear on all individuals, some will appear and be found repeatedly depending on each ray. As just Costa Rica and México have enough samples, we only compared the spot pattern of this sites. We used a t-test on PAST to see if there is a difference between both sides, and it shows there isn't. While for Cocos Island and Ecuador we expect to add more samples, there is a valuable information we found, and it’s the presence of A. ocellatus on Cocos Island and so of A. laticeps.
This project is important to determine the spots pattern of this specie and how it’s along its distribution, whose current descriptions do not consider whether there is a distinction of patterns according to localities. In addition, with this information there can be a re-description of the distribution of A. ocellatus and A. laticeps. Also, the need to carry out investigations like this one, is that morphological differences can be found in the same species, proposing to carry out more investigations that help clarify these findings and collaborate in the conservation of the species.

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