Suspension feeding fishes make up approximately 25% of the world's annual fishery catch and are essential components of many marine ecological communities as both consumers of various planktivorous species and also as a food source for many higher level predators. There are only 13 species of known filter-feeding elasmobranchs, which include: whale sharks, basking sharks, mega mouth sharks, manta rays and devil rays. Understanding the mechanics of prey capture and food preference for this group of fishes is necessary for successfully predicting migratory patterns and for maintenance of well managed fisheries stocks. Unfortunately, filter feeding elasmobranchs have all been placed on the IUCN's red list or do not have sufficient data to categorize their survival status. Most of the filter feeding sharks and rays are protected here in the US, but they continue to be heavily harvested in many Asian and South American countries.
Understanding the filtration mechanics in sharks and rays will not only help us to protect these charismatic group of fishes by helping us to predict food driven migration patterns, we can also produce innovative biologically inspired filtering systems.