On June 4th 2013 our instructor Rod and his 4 divers met Ariel on Ras Umm Sid. She is a 4 meter Giant manta that instructors Cath and Beth saw on the same dive site last May. She now has a dent in her tail but otherwise looks happy and healthy.
But how did we know this is the same manta? Eco Tribe's Cath who is passionate about the Sharm manta population said, "Each manta ray has their own individual markings on their belly that act like a fingerprint. If we get the photograph we can look through our archive to check if we have had a previous encounter."
Cambridge Professor Christopher Town has teamed up with Marine Megafauna Foundation to develop a ground-breaking algorithm to automatically match manta ray sighting photos. This algorithm has just been integrated into first global online database for manta rays, also affectionately named Manta Matcher, and will be used to monitor and compare populations of these giant rays across the globe. http://mantamatcher.org/
Andrea Marshall of Marine Mega Fauna was so excited about this match that she was telling people about it at the National Geographic Explorer Week in Washington DC. We love Citizen Science!