Giant manta ray

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Scientific name

Mobula birostris

Family

Mobulidae

Size

7 meters (23 feet)

Lifespan

45 years

Did you know?

Mantas have the biggest brain-to-body ratio of all fish species studied to date, and they use a specialized blood vessel system to keep the brains warmer than the ambient temperature. The significance of the brain structure is still being studied, but the size and structure may be indicative of species with complex social behaviors.

About Giant manta rays

Highly intelligent and social creatures, giant manta rays in some regions spend their days in large groups and at cleaning stations in shallow waters and then move into deeper waters at night to feed. They are often found concurrently with whale shark aggregations, as both species feed on the highly concentrated zooplankton produced by fish and invertebrate spawning events. Mantas use a highly specialized filter-feeding apparatus that filters plankton from seawater as they swim. This apparatus allows larger particles to ricochet away from the gills into the stomach and resists clogging of unwanted items. In the western Central Atlantic Ocean, we found that their preferred habitats are mostly coastal in areas of high primary productivity, such as river outflows. Giant manta rays are among the least productive species of rays in terms of their reproductive output, and it is estimated that a single female may only produce 4-7 offspring in its lifetime. The valuable trade of their gill plates has led to increased demand for giant manta rays, and some fisheries have begun targeting them, where they were once only captured incidentally. Because of their low reproductive rate, the species would take a long time to recover from overexploitation.

Diet

Like whale sharks, giant manta rays are planktivores, feeding primarily on zooplankton such as krill, fish eggs and larvae, small shrimps, copepods, and crab larvae.

Distribution

Giant manta rays are found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters from the surface to 1,000 meters in depth.

Fun facts

  • What we think of as manta rays are actually all mobula rays. The entire genus Manta was reclassified to Mobula in 2017.
  • The filtering mechanism used by mantas is being studied as a way to treat wastewater or filtering of microplastics.

Giant manta ray photo gallery

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