Size20 feet (6 m)
DietPlankton and small fish
RangeWestern Atlantic throughout the Western Caribbean and in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico
HabitatReefs, atolls, Island groups and the continental shelf with consistent upwelling currents
- Has the classic manta ray body shape featuring a broad head with an enormous wide mouth flanked by two broad, flexible, fleshy lobes (cephalic fins). These lobes are usually kept rolled and pointed forward except when the manta is feeding. At this time the cephalic lobes will be open and extended.
- Sometimes called the “devil ray” because when rolled and projected forward, the cephalic lobes have the appearance of horns.
- Reaching weights of up to 3,080 lbs. (1400 kg).
- The maximum adult size is about 20 feet (6 m).
- This species of manta may show great variation in pattern, but generally can be described as such:
Dorsal surface is dark in color with lighter shoulder patches. The underside is mostly white, dotted with black or charcoal blotches.
The patterns on the shoulders and underside exhibit many arrangements and help researchers recognize individual animals.
- Tail is whip-like and has a thick round mass at the base, just behind the dorsal fin. This is an identifying feature of this species.
Manta rays’ only natural predators are large sharks
- Manta ray is primarily a plankton feeder, but also consumes small fishes.
- Its two cephalic lobes are unrolled and held at a downward angle to create a funnel guiding prey into its mouth.
- Feeds near or at the surface where plankton accumulates, frequently around reefs. The prey that enters the mouth is filtered from the water by the gill rakers (filter plates), located on the internal gill arches, and then swallowed.
- During feeding the manta ray may repeatedly somersault under water and also occasionally break the surface. It also feeds in a horizontal orientation.
- Manta ray occurs in warm temperate and tropical waters of the Western Atlantic throughout the Western Caribbean and in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Frequently observed around reefs, atolls, Island groups and the continental shelf with consistent upwelling currents.
- Manta ray is ovoviviparous, meaning that the embryo develops within eggs retained in the mother’s uterus. The embryo is nourished by its egg’s small yolk, but also receives nourishment from the mother through small projections in the uterus called “villi” (trophonemata).
- Female gives birth to one or two live young. The pups are born with their wings folded around their body to allow easier passage through the birth canal.
- “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.
- Manta ray has been observed jumping clear of the water, mainly in spring and autumn. This seems to be associated with mating displays, although it may also be social behavior or actions related to dislodging skin parasites.
- The name “manta ray” comes from the Latin mantum, meaning cloak or veil.
- Fishing pressure and by-catch in drift and set nets are depleting local populations.
- It is harpooned and harvested in some areas for its flavorful meat, sandpaper skin and oil-rich liver.
- The branchial arches of the gills are dried and used in Asian medicine. This is contributing to additional harvesting.
- The only natural enemies of the manta ray are large sharks and man.
- This manta ray has 18 rows of teeth on the center of the lower jaw.