Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Manta Trust, a charity that helps to preserve manta rays and their environment, have teamed up to actually scan living and swimming manta rays using ultrasound. The team used the world’s first and only contactless underwater ultrasound machine, which allowed them to look at a fetus of a pregnant manta ray.
Some manta rays can get as big as 23 feet (7 meters) and though they’re quite friendly, it’s hard and still dangerous to try to scan a giant manta ray using a conventional ultrasound transducer. Since ultrasound travels quite nicely through water, the Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic, a device from IMV imaging, a maker of veterinary scanners, gives marine researchers a hands-off way of studying large animals.
Perhaps knowledge of the irregularities of manta ray pregnancies will even help human clinicians understand how we come to be. Moreover, there might be an advantage of scanning patients while in water, something that may only come about from research like this. Regardless, all the best to glorious mama manta rays and their descendants.
Here’s a video from University of Cambridge about the research: