Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
"Conversations Under the Canopy: Aggregating Juvenile Mangrove Whiprays Actively Produce Sound"
Featuring my original series from 2018 on our world-first discovery of sound production in wild stingrays, co-authored with Lachlan Fetterplace and Joni Pini-Fitzsimmons. All images were taken in Magnetic Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Ecology, Ecological Society of America
"Evidence of sound production in wild stingrays"
World-first: evidence of stingrays making sounds. Original series from 2018 on our world-first discovery of sound production in wild stingrays, co-authored with Lachlan Fetterplace and Joni Pini-Fitzsimmons. All images were taken in Magnetic Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
In the summer of 2018, on Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia, my wife Lisa commuted daily to the mainland while I focused on photographing Mangrove Whiprays for a project. Originally, I aimed to capture images of Dugongs, similar to manatees, but lacking a boat, I shifted my attention to the shy Whiprays.
This endeavor demanded immense patience. I'd visit the local mangroves at low tide, where young Whiprays congregated. To avoid startling them, I'd secure myself to mangrove roots and wait motionless as the tide rose, wearing a full-body anti-jellyfish suit due to the presence of lethal Irukandji jellyfish in the warm waters.
Beyond the jellyfish threat, occasional saltwater crocodiles added to the risk. Being European, unaccustomed to such dangers, I took extreme precautions, well aware of the hazards.
Over ten days, I returned to photograph the Whipray colony, maintaining absolute stillness despite rising tides and the creatures' inherent danger. During one encounter, a separated young ray reflexively raised its venomous tail, prompting me to capture photos and witness an unprecedented behavior: the ray emitted a stress call, a sound previously unrecorded in elasmobranchs.
Upon sharing the video online, an Australian fish scientist contacted me, acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the observation. Collaborating with esteemed fish scientists, our collective efforts resulted in a groundbreaking scientific publication titled “Evidence of sound production in wild stingrays,” after navigating through journal submissions and revisions.
After four years, the culmination of this discovery - made during a significant week that coincided with my marriage to Lisa - has been published in the Ecological Society of America Journal.
In reflection, the experience underscores the importance of staying alert, embracing one's surroundings, and never abandoning childhood dreams.