Spatial patterning of Manta birostris in United States east coast offshore habitat
This study aims to identify patterns in spatial distribution of Manta birostris along American East Coast by analyzing presence data using a suite of geostatistical techniques. Analysis of data from 1979 to 2008 revealed that the spatial patterns exhibited by the M. birostris include a strong clustering zone off the North Carolina from (however, not all years are represented in that range), Virginia and Maryland coast. Their presence is high near the coastal shelf edge and along the edge of the Gulf Stream. The mix of warm water and high chlorophyll concentration throughout the year in the region seem to create an ideal environment for this clustering pattern. However, in seasons with warmer water temperature, manta rays spread further north and inshore, possibly to avoid competition for prey. The results of geographic weighted regression indicate the role of sea surface temperatures on Manta presence or absence off the main current of the Gulf Stream near North Carolina and Virginia. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of M. birostris can assist in further protecting the species especially from dangers of by-catch and habitat degradation. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.