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Manta ray

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Manta ray
Manta Ray 1.jpg
Scientific Classification

Manta birostris

The manta ray is the largest of all the rays. They are known to reach a wingspan of 25 feet and weigh about 6,600 pounds. The manta ray is usually found to be black on top and white on bottom, but some are blue on top. The manta ray's distinctive horns on either side of the head are quite a sight for divers. These horns are actually derived from the pectoral fins from their embryonic development.[1] The main predator to the manta ray is the tiger shark.[2]


Though hard to see, this image provides an idea of the manta ray's length.

The manta ray has many strange features. One of the strangest features is the cephalic lobes located at the front of the animal.[3] These cephalic lobes are used to guide plankton filled water into the mouth of the ray.[4]Unlike most animals the mouth of the manta ray is found on the anterior side of the animal. For the animal to breathe, there are 5 pairs of gill slits located on the ventral side.[5] The eyes are located on either side, just before the cephalic lobes begin.[6] The pectoral fins are able to spread up to 25 feet apart. [7]The manta ray also has a dorsal fin on the dorsal side. [8]


A number of baby mantas.

Mantas use internal fertilization. Male mantas have a pair of claspers developed along the inner part of their pelvic fins. Each clasper has a groove through which sperm transfers to the female's body. This is where fertilization takes place. To attract a female, males will chase the female for long periods of time. Eventually, a male will grab the tip of one of her pectoral fins with his teeth and align their bellies. The male flexes one of his claspers and inserts it into the female's vent. Copulation lasts about 90 seconds. The fertilized eggs develop inside the mother's body for a lengthy, but an unknown period of time that may last at least 9 to 12 months or more. One or two pups are born per litter, but it is unknown what period of time this occurs. Mother mantas may take approximately one year's worth of a break between pregnancies to help re-build her energy stores. [9]


The mouth of a manta ray

Mantas eat plankton, fish larvae, and small organisms that are filtered out of the water by their gills using a type of filter feeding that is called ram-jet feeding.[10]

A manta's habitat ranges from near shore to the continental shelf near reef habitats and offshore islands. It is usually observed near the surface or in the mid-waters of reefs and lagoons. The manta will sometimes migrate into warmer waters.

Mantas sometimes swim in loose aggregations and spend a considerable time near the surface. Mantas have been observed breaching, jumping clear of the water, and returning with a splash. There are three types of jumps that mantas perform, forward jumps (landing head first), forward jumps (landing tail first), and somersaulting. Groups of these animals will sometimes act together as if doing a performance. Nobody knows why this behavior is exhibited, but some think that is to help attract a mate.[11]

The manta ray's predators include mainly large sharks. However, on occasion, killer whales have also been observed preying on the manta.[12]


Remora fish helping clean the manta ray.
Manta rays have a symbiotic relationship with a variety of cleaner fish. The rays come to the reef waiting for a friendly cleaner fish to come to them. A lot of the time the rays will return to the same area over and over again, in which case these areas are called cleaning stations. There are a couple of cleaning stations found in Hawaii located at Keauhou Bay and Ho'ona Bay.