Fish How clever are manta rays

Viral Video: Why Not Ask Manta Rays For Help

The fact that animals “ask” people for help is on the one hand sad because they are injured, but on the other hand it is also quite fascinating: Because often such a spectacle does not occur. Such scenes - captured by a camera - then go viral on the Internet all the more. Like this example, earlier this week.

What to see A three-meter-tall manta ray slowly swims towards divers and lets itself be freed from fishhooks that were stuck under its eyes. A film team was able to capture the rescue operation on Ningaloo Reef on Western Australia's coral coast. As euphoric as the video may make you feel, are manta rays really that intelligent to know that humans can relieve them of pain?

Endure pain to make it stop? Not with animals and children

"Unfortunately, I have to destroy this sweet story," says Vera Schlüssel. The zoologist works as a lecturer and research assistant at the University of Bonn and has been researching sharks and rays for more than 20 years. For 11 years she has focused her research on the cognitive abilities of cartilaginous fish, which also include manta rays. Why it can't be that the manta ray from the video specifically asked people for help, she explains: “Animals don't know that it must first really hurt in order for it to get better. Even children don't know that. "

The expert is accordingly of the opinion that the fishhooks under the eyes of the ray were not particularly painful. If that had been them, he would have swum away from the divers rather than towards them. “I don't think the ray was in much pain, the hooks may have bothered it, but pulling it out won't have been painful. Otherwise the ray would have disappeared long ago. "

A similar pattern can be seen with pets: if they once had pain at the vet, it is quite difficult to get the animals back to a doctor's office. "You can watch every animal and, by the way, every child: You don't sit around and say: Please again, after that it will be better." "

Read here:
Study: Hundreds of sharks and rays tangled in plastic

Manta rays are trusting

What also favors the appearance of contact in the video is the trustworthiness of the manta rays. Keys has tested this trustworthiness with freshwater stingrays: "If you continuously occupied yourself with the same rays, you just had to put your hand in the water and they would swim up or eat out of your hand." But that is possible with all animals, added Schlüssel and does not see this trust as a sign of high intelligence. “The divers in the video said that they see the rays often. It could be that the ray swims towards you. He knows there is no danger from them, ”says Schlüssel, explaining the trusting behavior. "In addition, rays are very curious."

The expert's conclusion: The manta ray did not ask people for help - we humans only interpret its behavior in this way.

Even the comparatively large brain of the manta rays does not automatically mean that they are smarter than other fish. “Manta rays have a fairly large forebrain, for example smells are processed there. So it could be that manta rays have a particularly good sense of smell. ”The local memory is also processed in the forebrain, so manta rays could possibly orient themselves better and recognize places. But just because their brains are big - by the way, it becomes the size of a human fist - manta rays are not automatically “superbrains”.

Even if not gifted, there is a certain degree of cleverness

With this, Schlüssel does not want to deny the animals their cleverness - mantra rays and fish in general already have certain skills. “Pisces remember people, they can tell us exactly apart. In addition, like us humans, everyone has their own personality. Fish are much smarter and more exciting than you might think. ”Still, the expert does not want to speak of intelligence.

“For that you would first have to be able to define intelligence. Has anyone ever checked whether a manta ray is more intelligent than another animal? ”It is simply not scientifically proven that a manta ray is more intelligent than other animals.

Nonetheless, Key enjoys all kinds of attention to fish. “I'm always a bit of a spoilsport because people like to read sweet stories about animals looking for help, but scientifically it just doesn't exist. Still, I am happy about positive stories about fish. ”True to the motto: What seeks protection itself must be protected, manta rays probably do a lot right - whether on purpose or not.

Also read:
Protection for Peru's giant mantas

By Alice Mecke / RND