Manta Rays are one of the superstars underwater. Many divers and snorkelers wish to see them in the ocean. Here we present some cool facts about manta rays.
1. Species of Manta Rays
There are two extant species of manta ray which differ in their appearance and their preferred habitat. The larger species is the giant oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) and the smaller species is the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi). They are very closely related to the nine extant species of mobula ray.
The giant manta ray can grow up to seven metres from the tip of each wing but are usually around four and a half metres.
Reef manta ray are smaller and are usually between three and three and a half metres but have been recorded up to five metres.
They are believed to live for at least 50 years and take up to ten years to reach sexual maturity.
4. How to Call a Group of Manta
Manta rays are sometimes seen on mass, for example when feeding, they are then known as a squadron of manta ray.
5. Their Distribution
Reef manta ray can be found in coastal areas in tropical and subtropical waters mostly in the Indo-Pacific.
The giant manta ray, on the other hand, is a circumglobal species which can be found in waters right around the equator spending the majority of its time far from land.
Both species have been observed filter feeding on large quantities of zooplankton however, research suggests that the giant manta ray also hunts for fish and this may be their prominent food source.
7. How to Distinguish Between Reef and Oceanic Manta
The main difference between the two species is the size of adults however if the ray is young this can bring confusion. The only way to be sure is by comparing colour pattern. Both have dark dorsal sides but the white lines on them make different shapes, the pattern on reef manta ray produces a Y shape whereas the giant manta ray makes a T.
8. How Deep They Go
The giant oceanic manta ray has been spotted at depths of 560m but we don’t know everything about them so it may be deeper.
9. Swimming Speed
Both manta ray species have escape speeds of up to 24km per hour.
Manta rays give birth to a single pup every two to five years. Their gestation period is believed to be around a year long.
11. Their Predators
Due to their large size and speed, they have very few natural predators, these include large sharks and killer whales.
12. Why They Jump
The short answer is, we don’t know!
Although there are many theories as to why they jump out of the water, an act known as breaching, scientists haven’t yet worked out why they do it.