With so many marine creatures showing signs of inteligence, it's no surprise that mantas are on the list of showing signs of being self aware.
Very few animals can gaze into a mirror and know it’s themselves looking
back. Gorillas, leopards, dogs, and cats, can’t quite grasp the
concept, often believing that their reflection is just another animal
Nonhuman animals that have been observed to pass the
mirror test include bonobos, chimps, dolphins, elephants, and some
birds. According to new research published in the Journal of Ethology, we can now add manta rays to this list. It’s the first time that a fish has been observed to pass the mirror test.
Researchers Csilla Ari and Dominic D’Agostino from the University of
South Florida in Tampa observed two captive giant manta rays in a tank,
both with and without mirrors inside. When the manta rays saw their
reflections, they didn’t try to get friendly and socialize with them.
And tellingly, the white markings on their back did not change, which is
what usually happens when a manta ray meets a new individual.
But the manta rays did exhibit self-directed behaviors consistent
with self-awareness. Specifically, the fish made “frequent and unusual”
repetitive swimming movements in front of the mirror, suggesting that
they were investigating, experimenting—or even playing—with their
reflections. Incredibly, the manta rays also blew bubbles in front of
the mirror, which is an unusual behavior for these creatures (perhaps
it’s the elasmobranch equivalent of sticking one’s tongue out).
As the researchers concluded in their study, manta rays may be “the
first elasmobranch species to exhibit self-awareness, which would imply
their potential for an ability to higher order brain function, and
sophisticated cognitive and social skills.” The researchers said that
future studies should determine whether these self-directed behaviors
are typical and frequent among manta rays.
For the researchers, this result did not come as a complete surprise.
Manta rays have brains with similar structures and functions found in
other vertebrates, including those animals capable of passing the mirror
test. Manta rays also have the largest brain of any fish.