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15 Manta Ray Facts that Answer Everything You Wonder About Them

manta ray facts - main - curiosidades de la mantarraya

If you are interested in knowing manta ray facts, it is because, in one way or another, this animal has left you in awe, just like me.

The first time I had the opportunity to meet one of these breathtaking fish, I witnessed a beautiful spectacle.

There we were on our liveaboard dive cruise in Socorro, looking over the ocean. The sea was calm. Suddenly, what looked like huge pointy black and white ears pierced the surface, like a massive cat had learned how to swim. But no, the manta ray continued its ascent into the air as if it were an arrow. Although enormous it flies elegantly, flapping its wing-like fins through a totally hostile environment for it. For a moment, it seems unaffected by gravity, and then it collapses in a brutal belly slam that makes a thunderous noise. The best thing is that it is not the only one. The first flight-dancer is followed by other manta rays in a happy exciting game.

How could I not have questions? So, I looked for information and asked my primary biologist, Victor Córdoba. He is also a diver with more than 30 years of experience. He is the Dressel Divers Human Resources Director and Course Director.

What did I ask? Take a look at the contents table.

manta ray facts (1) curiosidades de la mantarraya

1. Are Manta Ray Fish?

Manta rays are massive fish. Yes, fish. However, many people think they are mammals, but not. We’ll explain it after.

They are from the class of sharks (Elasmobranch) and are the largest rays in the ocean.

 

2. How Many Species of Rays Are There?

A curious manta ray fact is their small number of species. Although there are more than 560 species of rays, only 2 are manta rays. But for a long time, it was believed that there was only one manta ray specie.

The two species of manta rays are:

  • Giant manta rays, also known as giant oceanic manta rays (Mobula birostris)
  • The reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi)

 

3. How Big Is a Manta Ray?

The reef manta ray, which is the smallest, can reach 5.5m /18ft in length. A giant oceanic manta ray’s wingspan can reach 7m 23ft.

In other words, it is a huge animal. Its flat, imposing, diamond-shaped body is reminiscent of a blanket, in Spanish “manta”. Hence its name. Of course, we are talking about a blanket that can weigh a ton and a half.

 

4. What Color Are Manta Rays?

Manta rays only have two color patterns.

  • Some have a black or dark gray back and a white belly
  • Others are totally black with light-colored patterns on the belly. These spots are different in each animal and identifying.

This is a particularly unusual manta ray fact. Melanism or dark skin pigmentation is common in terrestrial animals but not in marine ones. In fact, manta rays are the only sharks or rays with this phenomenon.

manta ray facts - color curiosidades de la mantarraya

5. What’s The Difference Between Manta Rays and Stingrays?

Rays and manta rays belong to the same fish order, although they are different species.

The main differences lie in the mouth, the size, and the stinger.

  • Manta rays have their mouths in front, while the stingray’s mouth is in the lower part of the body.
  • Manta rays can reach 7m 23ft, while eagle rays, the largest ones, do not usually exceed 3m 10ft.
  • Rays have stings. Manta rays don’t.

6. Can Manta Rays Sting?

No, they can`t. Although manta rays have long tails, as we have already said, they do not have a stinger.

7. What Habitat Do Manta Rays Prefer?

We can find manta rays in all oceans, but they prefer tropical and subtropical waters with temperatures above 20º C and 68º F.

The reef manta ray prefers the Pacific and Indian oceans, while the giant manta ray is also easily found in the Atlantic.

Both species are pelagic, which means they prefer to live in the open sea, migrating to where they find the most food. Although, they address the reef to allow other fish to deworm them.

 

8. What Does a Manta Ray Eat?

The manta ray feeds mainly on plankton and krill that navigate at the mercy of ocean currents. In that sense, they are very similar to whale sharks.

As they are filter feeders, manta rays constantly swim with their mouths open centered on zooplankton search. The gill rakers expel the water and filter out the food.

They must eat approximately 13% of their weight in plankton per week, and for that, they make original movements, such as changes of direction and somersaults.

manta ray curiosities (2) curiosidades sobre la mantarraya

9. How Do Manta Rays Move?

Their powerful pectoral fins allow them to move.

According to different studies and the behavioral models of manta rays, 53.5% of their movements are made with the intention of feeding, while 46.5% have the objective of migrating.

 

10. Why Do Manta Rays Jump?

Although they say manta rays jump to play, communicate or get rid of parasites, the principal theory is different.

Jumpers are mostly male. It is believed that the taller and larger these hunks are, the more commotion they cause in the sea during their fall, and the more they will attract the attention of the females. It is an enormous effort for 90-second of copulation.

 

11. How Do Manta Rays Reproduce?

Although the manta ray courtship jump explanation is only a theory, there are some manta ray facts about their reproduction.

Males detect that a female is receptive. Then, they begin to follow her. They form what is called a “mating train.”

The winning male grabs the female with his mouth and presses his belly against her until he introduces his pterygopodia (copulatory organs) into her.

Manta rays reach sexual maturity between 8 and 10 years of age and can have young for 30 years.

What? Are you talking about having babies? Yes, manta rays are calving fish, but they develop inside eggs. They are ovoviviparous.

manta ray curiosities (5) curiosidades sobre la mantarraya

12. Do Manta Rays Lay Eggs?

No, they don’t lay them. The eggs are inside the mother and are fertilized by copulation. There, the offspring, 1 or 2, develop for 12 or 13 months. The eggs hatch inside the mother, and she gives birth to the little manta rays.

At birth, the young do not need to suck milk from the mother. Therefore, they are not mammals.

 

13. What Is a Group of Rays Called?

Popularly in English, a group of manta rays is called a “fever.”

Another manta ray fact is that they are more social than previously believed. They form groups among members of the same species to feed and attend cleaning stations with other species that deworm them.

 

14. How Do Manta Rays Protect Themselves?

Its size is its first defense. The second line of defense is provided by its pectoral fins. They use them to escape at high speed. When they have no choice, they fight using their tail as if it were a whip.

Manta rays really have few threats to protect themselves from. Mainly some big predators like sharks and killer whales.

Its ability to regenerate it’s one of the most incredible manta ray facts. If they are bitten, their tissues quickly regenerate. Also, small cleaner fish help them remove dead tissues.

 

15. Are Manta Rays Endangered?

Again, human beings are the greatest threat to biodiversity.

The two species of manta rays are on the UICN  list with the classification of vulnerable. The main cause is overfishing. They are highly appreciated both in the kitchen and in the pharmacy.

Here we have collected 15 interesting manta ray facts, but there are more. Do you want to add any? Share them with us on Facebook!

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