Manta Rays Connected to Bird Droppings!

Scientists have discovered a chain of life that connects trees, bird droppings, plankton and manta rays and shown how human disturbance is affecting this complex system.

  • This research was conducted on the Palmyra atoll in the Pacific Ocean
  • An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon. Atolls are important places for birds to roost (or rest).
  • On the Palmyra atoll, birds roost in trees that are native to the island.
  • Droppings from the birds fall into the soil, filling it with nutrients.
  • The soil washes into the sea and plankton survive on these nutrients.
  • The manta rays feed on the plankton.
  • Scientists have found that when the native trees on the island are replaced with planted palm trees, fewer birds visit the atoll and this chain of life is disturbed.
  • Fewer trees = less birds visiting = fewer droppings = less nutrients in the water = less plankton = fewer manta rays.
  • This research is important because it shows us that life is connected in very complex ways and that our actions may affect the web of life in ways we cannot imagine.

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