Manta Rays

Common Name: Manta Rays

Type: Fish

Family: Mobulidae (manta rays)

Range: It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs, Worldwide, particularly in tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate waters and the seas of Costa Rica.

Size: The manta ray can reach an immense size of three to seven meters (with reports of large specimens measuring more than nine meters) from wing tip to wing tip.

Weight: Although there is no authentic data’s are available about their weight. An estimate is 50-100 lbs. per foot of Manta Ray.

Diet: The manta ray is a harmless filter feeder, taking in water and food through its mouth. Their diet is zooplankton that consists of mysid shrimp, copepods, crab lava, fish eggs and mollusk larva.

Average life span:
Life span of Manta Rays is believed to be 50 to 100 years of age.

Habitat: Manta rays live over areas of tropical to lukewarm waters throughout the world. They can be found in oceans, estuaries, lagoons, freshwater streams, lakes, offshore waters, and costal lines. Manta Rays have been spotted in a depth of more than 700 feet (214 meters) for a shorter period of time. However, they are usually stayed in shallow waters. Scuba Divers and Snorkelers usually come across the Manta Rays from the surface to eighty feet of depth in the oceans.
The manta ray is very common in tropical waters of Australia, including Ningaloo Marine Park.

Breeding/Reproduction: The breeding behavior observed for manta rays is same as to other closely related rays. Copulation occurs near the surface, not more than one meter below. It starts with the male pursuing the female, for nearly half an hour, both often closely followed by a train of hopeful suitors. These mating are triggered by a full moon. The male bites the pectoral fin and then stirs its claspers into the cloaca, holding it there for one minute to one and a half while copulation takes place. The developing eggs remain inside the female’s body for about 12 months and hatch internally so that she bears live young. The average litter size is two pups, and there is often a two year gap between births. The young are enclosed in a thin shell which hatches inside the mother.

Manta Ray or the Manta Birostris is a member of the Myliobatidae family in the order of Myliobatiformes. It was believed to be the largest of the family of rays. They were called by different names all over the world like “devil fish”, Pacific Manta or Atlantic Manta. These species can be found all over the world but most of them preferred the warmer or tropical waters with surrounding coral reefs. Many are seen in the warm and abundant marine life water of Costa Rica, from the Guanacaste Coast to the Catalina Islands and the Bat Islands of Costa Rica.

One of the physical descriptions of the manta is their wings within its breast area which are triangular in shape. They also have lobes that look like an oar expanding in front of their mouth. Since they have huge wing-liked body their body measures up to 25 feet wide and they weigh almost 1,400 kilograms. Mostly their color varies from black, brown or greyish blue. They also have light undersides. It has an enormous mouth with 18 rows of teeth within the lower jaw to aid in feeding. They also have the famous tail like most rays do but it is not harmful to humans unlike the sting ray does. Their brain also is considered the largest but in ratio to its body on the Elasmobranchii family which has sharks, rays and skates consists of.
When the manta rays want to mate, they usually go approximately just one meter or less below the surface. Usually the male is in pursuit for the female while courting. It was believed that this copulation usually is done in a full moon. The eggs develop inside the mother’s body for almost a year. Then they lay eggs inside its body then bear their young. These species only bears offspring once every two years. Baby mantas are mostly 4 feet wide.

Manta rays are mostly feeding in the bottom of the oceans. Their main diet consists of plankton and fish larvae. It was believed that a normal manta could consume as much as 30 kilograms of plankton in a daily basis. When you saw them swimming, it is like they are gracefully flying in the water. Manta rays also were perceived to breach in the surface. They usually leap to lose some predators, or they want to get clear their skin with parasites or even communicate to other manta rays. Manta ray’s skins are always filled with skin parasites. That is the reason why they usually swim slowly on cleaning stations where wrasse, angelfish and remora will feed on that parasite and dead tissue under their mouth and belly.
A manta ray like the sharks needs to swim always to avoid itself from sinking. Their main predators are large sharks and sometimes orcas attack them as well. Since they are humungous in size, they are not usually captured to be put in a public aquarium. It was known that only 4 public aquarium housed these giant mantas in the world. Human is still considered their greatest threat. Some killed mantas since they are used to manufacture Chinese medicines. Since the numbers of manta rays are declining, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considered them on the list as vulnerable species with a risk of extinction. Most countries ban people from fishing and killing manta rays. Also the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) protects this species on international waters.

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