Use of a nursery area by cownose rays (Rhinopteridae) in southeastern Brazil
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Using non-lethal methods for data collection of individuals and participatory monitoring by fishermen, we provide the first empirical evidence of the use of a nursery area by neonate and young-of-the-year cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus and R. brasiliensis in southeastern Brazil. Two methods were used to collect data: (1) information provided by fishermen (reports, pictures, and videos) and (2) field sampling by researchers. A total of 746 cownose rays were captured; 113 have been identified as R. bonasus, 15 as R. brasiliensis, and 618 were reported by fishermen and could not be identified to the species. Records of newborns were made only in late spring and summer in 2015, 2016, and 2017, which suggests an annual reproductive cycle, with birth in late spring, extending to summer. A repeated use of this area by R. bonasus suggests that it is potentially important to the reproduction of this species. However, R. brasiliensis requires more studies. Small increases in mortality, resulting from increased fishing or other anthropogenic stressors, can have a disproportionately large effect on population viability. Thus, management of areas used during critical stages of the life cycle of rays is crucial to their conservation.