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PeerJ. 2016 Nov 1;4:e2586. eCollection 2016.

A potential third Manta Ray species near the Yucatán Peninsula? Evidence for a recently diverged and novel genetic Manta group from the Gulf of Mexico.

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Posgrado en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología/Laboratorio de Genética de Organismos Acuáticos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad de México, Mexico; Instituto de Biotecnología, Chamilpa, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.
Department of Biological Science, California State University , Fullerton , CA , United States.
Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Unidad Académica de Ecología y Biodiversidad Acuática, Laboratorio de Genética de Organismos Acuáticos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México , Ciudad de México , Mexico.
Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas , La Paz , Baja California Sur , México.


We present genetic and morphometric support for a third, distinct, and recently diverged group of Manta ray that appears resident to the Yucatán coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Individuals of the genus Manta from Isla Holbox are markedly different from the other described manta rays in their morphology, habitat preference, and genetic makeup. Herein referred to as the Yucatán Manta Ray, these individuals form two genetically distinct groups: (1) a group of mtDNA haplotypes divergent (0.78%) from the currently recognized Manta birostris and M. alfredi species, and (2) a group possessing mtDNA haplotypes of M. birostris and highly similar haplotypes. The latter suggests the potential for either introgressive hybridization between Yucatán Manta Rays and M. birostris, or the retention of ancestral M. birostris signatures among Yucatán Manta Rays. Divergence of the genetically distinct Yucatán Manta Ray from M. birostris appears quite recent (<100,000 YBP) following fit to an Isolation-with-Migration model, with additional support for asymmetrical gene flow from M. birostris into the Yucatán Manta Ray. Formal naming of the Yucatán Manta Ray cannot yet be assigned until an in-depth taxonomic study and further confirmation of the genetic identity of existing type specimens has been performed.


Genetic divergence; Manta alfredi; Manta birostris; ND5; Yucatán manta ray

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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