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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Giant Manta Ray Manta birostris

Divers often describe the experience of swimming beneath a manta ray as like being overtaken by a huge flying saucer. This ray is the biggest in the world, but like the biggest shark, the whale shark, it is a harmless consumer of plankton.

When feeding, it swims along with its cavernous mouth wide open, beating its huge triangular wings slowly up and down. On either side of the mouth, which is at the front of the head, there are two long paddles, called cephalic lobes. These lobes help funnel plankton into the mouth. A stingerless whiplike tail trails behind.

Giant manta rays tend to be found over high points like seamounts where currents bring plankton up to them. Small fish called remoras often travel attached to these giants, feeding on food scraps along the way. Giant mantas are ovoviviparous, so the eggs develop and hatch inside the mother. These rays can leap high out of the water, to escape predators, clean their skin of parasites or communicate.

Printable fact sheet about manta rays>>

Printable fact sheet about devil rays>>

Manta Rayzoom image
  • Order Rajiformes
  • Width_wingspan Up to 29.5 ft (9 m)
  • Weight Up to 3,000 lb (1.4 metric tons)
  • Depth 0–80 ft (0–24 m); usually near surface
  • Distribution Surface tropical waters worldwide, sometimes warm temperate areas
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