Habitat and Ecology
As with all Myliobatiformes, the reproductive mode of M. kuhlii is livebearing and histotrophic, with embryonic nutrition supplied from a protein- and lipid-rich histotroph from highly developed trophonemata. A single, relatively large pup is produced per litter (Compagno and Last 1999, White et al. 2006b). Long resting periods may account for extended reproductive cycles in mobulid species. This species feeds on planktonic crustaceans and possibly small fishes and cephalopods (Sommer et al. 1996, White et al. 2006b) and reaches a maximum size of about 119 cm disc width (DW) (White et al. 2006b). Size at birth is around 31 cm DW (Compagno and Last 1999). Males mature at 115–119 cm (DW) (White et al. 2006b).
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Mobula kuhlii
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mobula kuhlii
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 12
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Mobula kuhlii is vulnerable to net gear, in particular gill nets, and is taken as a target or utilised bycatch in Indonesia and likely throughout much of its range. In Indonesia mobulid rays are landed as bycatch by artisanal gillnet fishers who target tuna. White et al. (2006a) conducted a study of the bycatch of mobulid rays in the drift gillnet fishery for skipjack tuna off Indonesia. Of 409 mobulid rays observed at four landing sites in eastern Indonesia from April 2001 to October 2005, M. kuhlii was the most rarely recorded and composed only 2% of the total rays, in this part of its range.
The high value of gill rakers in some areas is driving a dramatic increase in the catch of mobulids in Indonesia, where some fishers are now targeting devil rays, and their meat, cartilage and skin are also utilised (White et al. 2006). Although specific catch details are unavailable because of poor documentation in fisheries, mobulid rays appear to be particularly susceptible to overfishing as their fecundity is the lowest of all elasmobranchs (with litter sizes of typically only one pup and a gestation period assumed to be 1–3 years) (White et al. 2006a).
Directed mobulid fisheries have also been reported in other areas of this species’ range, including India, Sri Lanka and Thailand (Compagno and Last 1999, White et al. 2006a). Given the vulnerable life-history characteristics of this species, it is highly unlikely to be able to sustain continued directed fishing. Manta rays were targeted in the Philippines until protection was introduced for them in this area in 1988, as a result of international concern for the sustainability of such fisheries (see Conservation Measures below) (White et al. 2006a). Directed artisanal elasmobranch and ray fisheries using surface and bottom gillnet and line, also operate off Tanzania and a variety of artisanal multi-species artisanal net and line fisheries operate off South Africa (www.wiofish.org).Traditional fisheries for rays operate off Oman, using bottom lines and fixed gillnets. Rays are also often caught incidentally using beach seines off Oman (FAO 2008). Furthermore this species’ preference for coastal waters places it within the range of inshore fisheries, which are known to be intensive in many parts of its range, including India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Indonesia (Young et al. 2005, Flewwelling and Hosch 2006, Mngulwi 2006, Morgan 2006).
A recent review of the state of marine capture fisheries management in the Indian Ocean, noted that directed fisheries for sharks and rays exist in the Maldives, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania and their status is considered probably fully to overexploited in the southwestern Indian Ocean (Young et al. 2006). The same review noted that ‘Rays, stingrays, mantas nei’ (a catch category that includes mobulid rays) are moderately to fully exploited in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia (Young et al. 2006). The life-history characteristics of this species, including very low fecundity, make it more vulnerable to exploitation relative to other more productive species of elasmobranchs included under these categories.
Mobulid rays are valuable for their branchial fiter plates, which are exported from Indonesia to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore and ground down for use in traditional Chinese medicines (White et al. 2006a). The skins, cartilage and flesh are also utilised for human consumption and the cartilage also used as a ‘filler’ for low-grade shark fin soup (White et al. 2006a).
Elasmobranch fisheries are generally unmanaged throughout Southeast Asia and indeed elsewhere in the range of this species, and attempts to regulate fisheries in these regions would greatly improve conservation of M. kuhliii and other chondrichthyans. The capture of mobulid rays in the Philippines was banned with a Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO 193) (known as the “Whale shark and Manta Ray Ban”), issued in 1988.
The development and implementation of management plans (national and/or regional e.g. under the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: IPOA-Sharks) are required to facilitate the conservation and sustainable management of all chondrichthyan species across the regions where this ray occurs.
The vulnerability of mobulids and increasing catches requires urgent international conservation measures. These will need to focus on harvest and trade management.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Mobula kuhlii, the shortfin devil ray, is a species of eagle ray in the genus Mobula. It is endemic to the Indian Ocean and central-west Pacific Ocean. It ranges from South Africa, Tanzania and the Seychelles in the west to the Philippines and Indonesia in the east, and southward to the northern coast of Australia.
The shortfin devil ray is a small eagle ray growing to a maximum width of 120 cm (47 in) and a weight of 30 kilograms (66 lb). It is flattened horizontally with a wide central disc and the head is short with small cephalic fins. The large pectoral fins have curved tips and the dorsal fin has a white tip. The tail is not tipped with a spine and is shorter than the body. The dorsal surface of this fish is brown and does not bear any placoid scales, and the ventral surface is white.
The shortfin devil ray feeds on plankton and possibly also on small fish and squid. It gathers its food by swimming with its mouth open and passing the water over its gill rakers which filter out the food particles. It is an ovoviviparous fish and has the lowest rate of reproduction of any of the elasmobranchs. A litter usually consists of a single pup and the gestation period is one to three years.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature have classified the conservation status of this species as "data deficient". This is because the shortfin devil ray is the subject of both targeted and bycatch inshore fisheries, but insufficient records are kept to enable population trends to be estimated. However, it is vulnerable to over-fishing because of its low reproductive rate. Targeted fisheries occur in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and this ray is caught in Indonesia especially for its gill rakers. These are valuable because of their use in traditional Chinese medicine. The flesh is used for human consumption, the skin is dried and deep fried, and the cartilage is used as a filler in the manufacture of shark fin soup.
- Bizzarro, J.; Smith, W.; White, W.T.; Valenti, S.V. (2009). "Mobula kuhlii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2015-01-14.
- Bailly, Nicolas (2014). "Mobula kuhlii (Müller & Henle, 1841)". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 2015-01-14.
- "Mobula kuhlii (Müller & Henle, 1841)". FishBase. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
- Notarbartalo-di-Sciara, G, (1987). "A revisionary study of the genus Mobula Rafinesque, 1810 (Chondrichthyes: Mobulidae) with the description of a new species". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 91 (1): 1–91. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1987.tb01723.x.
- White, William T.; Giles, Jenny; Dharmadi, Potter, Ian C. (2006). "Data on the bycatch fishery and reproductive biology of mobulid rays (Myliobatiformes) in Indonesia". Fisheries Research 82 (1–3): 65–73. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2006.08.008.