The smalleye stingray is the largest-known marine stingray species in the world, and yet we still know so very little about it. Much of this has to do with the species’ elusiveness, which makes tracking and studying them particularly challenging for scientists in the field.
In an effort to learn more about the smalleye stingray, scientists urged scuba divers and tourists to submit their underwater photographs and video films of these magnificent creatures to aid data collection. While it seemed like a long shot at first, scientists were particularly pleased with the findings.
The effort to crowd-source data resulted in the very first official scientific study involving the smalleye stingray. Scientists used the markings on the animals’ backs to identify one from another, and this allowed them to track the animals’ migration patterns.
The smalleye stingray’s migration pattern was significantly longer than initially expected, and perhaps more importantly, it was found to have the longest straight-line migration distance of any stingray ever recorded from the whiptail family.
Scientists still know very little about the smalleye stingray today, and this has implications for the species’ conservation. On the other hand, the study underscored the importance of crowd-sourced data, as it often goes beyond the scope of traditional scientific data collection.