Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Reef manta ray attending a cleaning station at Lady Elliot Island, Australia

A reef manta ray visits a cleaning station at Lady Elliot Island, Australia. Credit: A. O. Armstrong et al./Ecol. Evol. (CC BY 4.0)


What manta rays remember: the best spots to get spruced up

Giant fish preserve a mental map of where cleaning fish provide the highest-quality pest removal.

Even sea creatures need pampering. Manta rays make regular visits to ‘cleaning stations’, where small fish rid the rays of skin parasites at the coral-reef equivalent of a day spa. Now it seems that rays can identify and remember spots where they have received quality cleaning.

Cleaning stations are often centred on corals inhabited by cleaner shrimp or fish. To understand how these stations influence rays’ movements, Asia Armstrong at the University of Queensland in St Lucia, Australia, and her colleagues tracked 34 reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) off the coast of eastern Australia for about 1.5 years.

The highest density of rays was found at places where cleaning fish called blue-streak cleaner wrasses (Labroides dimidiatus) were most abundant. Rays typically visited cleaning stations during the day, when cleaner wrasses are most active, and favoured stations close to foraging regions.

Rays are thought to prefer stations that provide superior cleaning — where the cleaners don’t bite them, for example. The rays’ behaviour suggests that they have a mental map of spots that offer both high-quality cleaning and proximity to foraging grounds.

More Research Highlights...

Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty


Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty


A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
Auroras on Jupiter

Jupiter’s aurora glows blue in this composite image. A newly detected radio signal might be the signature of a similar aurora on a planet in another solar system. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols, Univ. Leicester

Astronomy and astrophysics

Wiggly signal hints of an aurora on a planet far from the Solar System

A vast radio observatory on Earth detects signals similar to those generated by the aurora on Jupiter.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links