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Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Fact File

Mobula birostris

Credit: Elias Levy, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

1.8 tonnes

(1.75tons)

Length

4-7m

(13-23ft)

Lifespan

Wild 45 years

Captive 45 years

Diet

Carnivore

Fish, Plankton

Conservation Status

IUCN

Endangered

The World's Largest Ray!

The giant oceanic manta ray is the world's largest species of ray. They are found in the pelagic zone of tropical oceans.

Despite their large size this species poses little threat to other species in the ocean or humans. They feed mostly on plankton which are microscopic organisms in the oceans. Some small fish are also consumed.

Female manta rays will only produce a single pup every two or three years. As a result it is difficult for them to replace any individuals lost from the population.

Currently they are threatened by fishing with high demand for their meat for use as food and medicines along with their skin for leather.

Read to learn more about these fabulous fish.

Appearance

What does the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray look like?

The giant oceanic manta ray is, as their name suggests the world's largest species of ray. Individuals can reach lengths of between 4 and 7m (13 and 23ft) long with a weight of up to 1.8 tonnes (1.75tons).

As a ray they have large, triangular, pectoral fins on either side of the body. These may be up to 6.5m (21ft) across. To move through the water they move these fins up and down.

On top of the fins are two white marks over the shoulder area. Coloration is variable among individuals with some being almost entirely black and others being black on the upper side and white on the underside.

Along the underside of the giant oceanic manta ray are black spots. These are unique to each individual and can be used to tell them apart.

On either side of the head are two large appendages known as lobes. These work to funnel food towards their mouth.

A short tail is present at the end of their body. This does not have the fin or sting seen in other ray species.

Adaptations

How does the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray survive in its habitat?


The giant oceanic manta ray has its mouth positioned at the front of the body. This allows them to feed continuously as they move through the water.

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Diet

What does the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray eat?

The giant oceanic manta ray is an omnivore which will feed on tiny organisms known as plankton. These can be collected as they move through the water and are filtered by the gills. Some small shoaling fish are also consumed.

To maximize their prey intake they may perform barrel rolls.

Learn more about the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray in this video from New Atlantis Wild on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray?

Giant manta rays are found globally through tropical waters.

Habitat

Where can the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray survive?

The giant oceanic manta ray is an ocean going species found in neritic and oceanic pelagic habitats. Most often they are found in areas with upswelling.

Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris)

Credit: Arturo de Frias Marques, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Reproduction

How does the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray produce its young?

During the breeding season the male giant oceanic manta ray will chase females. When he can catch up to her he swims beneath and faces his underside towards her. He then inserts a set of claspers.

Following mating females give birth to one or two young. It is thought that these gestate for one year. At birth the young are already 1.2m (4ft) wide across.

Often they will only produce one young every two to three years.

Adults attain sexual maturity around 9 years old but they may now breed for a few years after this.

Behavior

What does the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray do during its day?

This ocean going species is able to dive to depths of up to 1,000m (3,280ft).

These animals are mostly solitary. They will come together at cleaning sites or where food is in abundance.

At cleaning sites the oceanic giant manta ray will be groomed by fish which remove any parasites which are present across their body.

Throughout the year the oceanic giant manta ray will undertake migrations to areas of prey abundance.

Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris)

Credit: jon hanson from london, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray from surviving and thriving?

Predators of the giant oceanic manta ray include sharks and killer whales.

When threatened by a predator the manta ray can accelerate its swimming pace to avoid predation. They may also leap from the water.

Despite difficulties in determining the global population size of the giant oceanic manta ray it is still widely accepted that their population is in decline. This species has been the subject of less study due to their more oceanic habitat.

They are captured both directly and as by-catch in fisheries. Their large size and slow swimming speed give them little defense against capture. This is the largest driver of their decline.

Much of this capture is undertaken to fuel demand for their meat, oil and gill plates. Some are also used in traditional medicines.

A small market exists for the live capture of individuals for sale in to the aquarium trade.

Other factors in their decline include vehicle strikes, pollution and climate change.

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Quick facts

Until 2017 this species was known by the scientific name, Manta birostris. They have also been grouped as a single species with the reef manta ray in recent history.

This species may also be referred to as the pelagic manta ray or the devil ray causing confusion with another species of the same name.

The 'manta' name is taken from a Spanish word for blanket or cloak.

At present the manta ray is recognized as having the largest brain to body size ratio of any fish.

Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris)

Credit: Stevelaycock21, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Marshall, A., Barreto, R., Carlson, J., Fernando, D., Fordham, S., Francis, M.P., Derrick, D., Herman, K., Jabado, R.W., Liu, K.M., Rigby, C.L. & Romanov, E. 2020. Mobula birostrisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T198921A68632946. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T198921A68632946.en. Accessed on 26 February 2022.

Doc.govt.nz. 2022. Giant manta ray. [online] Available at: <https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-fish-and-reptiles/sharks-mango/giant-manta-ray/> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

NOAA. 2022. Giant Manta Ray. [online] Available at: <https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/giant-manta-ray> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

Oceana. 2022. Giant Manta Ray. [online] Available at: <https://oceana.org/marine-life/giant-manta-ray/> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

Manta Trust. 2022. Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris) Species Guide — Manta Trust. [online] Available at: <https://www.mantatrust.org/mobula-birostris> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

Reckless, D., 2022. 10 amazing facts about manta rays. [online] Queensland. Available at: <https://www.queensland.com/au/en/places-to-see/experiences/great-barrier-reef/marine-life/facts-about-manta-rays> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

Wing, M., 2022. All About the Mysterious Giant Manta Ray – Manta Ray Advocates Hawaii. [online] Manta Ray Advocates Hawaii. Available at: <https://mantarayadvocates.com/giant-oceanic-manta-ray/> [Accessed 26 February 2022].

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