Manta ray
The manta ray is the largest species of the rays
Batoidea is a superorder of cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays and skates, containing more than 500 described species in thirteen families...

. The largest known specimen was more than 7.6 metres (24.9 ft) across, with a weight of about 1300 kilograms (2,866 lb). It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the sharks, rays and skates (Elasmobranchii
Elasmobranchii is a subclass of Chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fish, that includes the sharks and the rays and skates .-Evolution:...

), a brain which is kept warm during lengthy dives to as deep as 500 metres in cold water.

Mantas have a variety of common names, including Atlantic manta, Pacific manta, devilfish, and just manta.
The manta ray is the largest species of the rays
Batoidea is a superorder of cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays and skates, containing more than 500 described species in thirteen families...

. The largest known specimen was more than 7.6 metres (24.9 ft) across, with a weight of about 1300 kilograms (2,866 lb). It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the sharks, rays and skates (Elasmobranchii
Elasmobranchii is a subclass of Chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fish, that includes the sharks and the rays and skates .-Evolution:...

), a brain which is kept warm during lengthy dives to as deep as 500 metres in cold water.

Mantas have a variety of common names, including Atlantic manta, Pacific manta, devilfish, and just manta. At one time it was thought that there were many species of manta. Until quite recently, scientific consensus has been that there is just one species, a view supported by mitochondrial DNA studies.

However recent studies have suggested that manta rays actually comprise at least two different species, the giant manta (Manta birostris), which migrates, and another smaller one called the reef manta (Manta alfredi), which does not. The use of the "alfredi" name is questionable. The species alfredi was first used in the description of Prince Alfred's manta ray by Krefft in 1868.
Modern genetic studies have shown that Ceratoptera alfredi (Krefft, 1868), revised as Manta alfredi (Krefft, 1868), is a synonym of Manta birostris (Donndorff, 1798). The genus is generally considered to be in need of worldwide revision. Even the accepted name Manta birostris is often incorrectly ascribed to Walbaum (1792).


The term manta derives from the Spanish word manta, meaning cloak or blanket. This term originated from a type of trap traditionally used to catch rays that has a form resembling a blanket.


Manta rays can be not only bottom-feeders, but can adapt to the open ocean by filter feeding. This feeding strategy allowed them to grow larger than other ray species. Some ancestral characteristics degenerated due to the feeding change. For example, all that remains of the oral teeth is a small band of vestigial teeth on the lower jaw, almost hidden by the skin. The number and size of their dermal denticles are also reduced. Manta rays have a much thicker mucus
In vertebrates, mucus is a slippery secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. Mucous fluid is typically produced from mucous cells found in mucous glands. Mucous cells secrete products that are rich in glycoproteins and water. Mucous fluid may also originate from mixed glands, which...

 body coating than other rays. Their spiracle
Spiracles are openings on the surface of some animals that usually lead to respiratory systems.-Vertebrates:The spiracle is a small hole behind each eye that opens to the mouth in some fishes. In the primitive jawless fish the first gill opening immediately behind the mouth is essentially similar...

s have become small and non-functional, as all water is consumed orally. Mantas have a tail similar to stingray
The stingrays are a group of rays, which are cartilaginous fishes related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes, and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae , Plesiobatidae , Urolophidae , Urotrygonidae , Dasyatidae , Potamotrygonidae The...

s, but they have lost their stinger and are harmless to divers.


Manta rays have a distinctive body shape with triangular pectoral ‘wings’ and paddle-like lobes extending in front of their mouths. The disc width is up to 6.7 metres and the weight up to 1400 kilograms. They are generally dark on the upper surface, ranging from black to greyish-blue and brown, with pale undersides; individuals have a unique pattern of blotches and scars that can be used to identify them. The large, cavernous mouth is situated at the front of the body and contains 18 rows of teeth on the lower jaw.


Mantas feed on plankton
Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...

, fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

In Roman mythology, lemures were shades or spirits of the restless or malignant dead, and are probably cognate with an extended sense of larvae as disturbing or frightening...

 and the like, filtered from the water passing through their mouths and out of their gills as they swim. They catch small prey organisms on gill rakers, flat plates of russet-colored spongy tissue spanning spaces between the manta's gill bars. An average-sized manta is estimated to take in 20-30kgs of plankton per day.
Individuals have been observed swimming in slow vertical loops whilst feeding, possibly in an effort to concentrate prey items. The fleshy projections on either side of the mouth are also used to funnel prey; when not feeding, these lobes are either furled or closed in front of the mouth. Manta rays are often host to remoras (Remorina spp.), which attach to the underside of the larger fish and consume particles of food that fall from the mouth. They are exceptionally graceful swimmers and appear to fly through the water on their large wings. Individuals have also been observed to jump clear out of the water, possibly in a form of communication or play.

The breeding behaviour observed for manta rays is similar to other closely related rays. Copulation occurs near the surface, no deeper than a metre below. It begins with the male chasing the female, for up to half an hour, both often closely followed by a train of hopeful suitors. Such mating trains seem to be triggered by a full moon. The male bites the pectoral fin and then moves its claspers into the cloaca, holding it there for a minute to a minute and a half while copulation takes place. The developing eggs remain inside the female’s body for possibly as long as 12 months and hatch internally so that she gives birth to live young. The average litter size is two pups, and there is often a two year gap between births.


Manta rays frequently visit cleaning station
Cleaning station
A cleaning station is a location where fish, sea turtles, hippo and other aquatic life, freshwater and marine, congregate to be cleaned.The cleaning process includes the removal of parasites from the animal's body , and can be performed by various creatures A cleaning station is a location where...

s where small fish such as wrasse
The wrasses are a family, Labridae, of marine fish, many of which are brightly colored. The family is large and diverse, with over 600 species in 82 genera, which are divided into nine subgroups or tribes....

, remora
The remora , sometimes called a suckerfish or sharksucker, is an elongated, brown fish in the order Perciformes and family Echeneidae...

, and angelfish swim in the manta's gills and over its skin to feed, in the process cleaning it of parasites and dead tissue. Like other species in the shark family they must swim to keep from sinking, so that their stay at a cleaning station is characterised by slow circuits.

Large sharks and in some circumstances orca
The killer whale , commonly referred to as the orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas...

s, are the manta's main predators.

Mantas sometimes breach the surface and launch themselves into the air.

The Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 are a hotspot for plankton and consequently for reef mantas. A population of 6-7 000 is resident throughout the year. Here they frequently feed by skimming the surface, but when plankton concentrations are particularly high, hundreds of rays will assemble and form a feeding vortex, sometimes in the company of whale shark
Whale shark
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of and a weight of more than , but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks...


In captivity

Manta rays are very rarely kept in captivity, primarily due to their size. Only four aquariums in the world display manta rays. One notable example is "Nandi", a manta ray that was accidentally caught in shark nets off Durban
Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 in 2007. Rehabilitated, and outgrowing her aquarium, uShaka Marine World, Nandi moved to the larger Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium, located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, at Pemberton Place, is the world's largest aquarium with more than of marine and fresh water housing more than 120,000 animals of 500 different species...

 in August 2008, where she resides in its 6.2-million-gallon "Ocean Voyager" exhibit. A second manta ray joined that aquarium's collection in September 2009, dubbed "Tallulah." A third manta ray has recently been added to the Ocean Voyager exhibit.

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
The , located within the Ocean Expo Commemorative National Government Park in Okinawa, Japan. It welcomed its 20 millionth visitor on 30 March 2010 and is a member of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums .-History:...

 also houses manta rays in the "Kuroshio Sea" tank, the second-largest aquarium tank in the world. On June 16, 2007, the first manta ray born in captivity was born at the aquarium. Although the pup born in 2007 did not survive, the aquarium has also since seen the birth of two more manta rays in 2008 and 2009.

The Lisbon Oceanarium
Lisbon Oceanarium
The Oceanarium is an oceanarium in Lisbon, Portugal. It is located in the Parque das Nações, which was the exhibition grounds for the Expo '98.- Architecture :...

 also hosted a manta ray, Manta birostris, from 2002 until releasing it in 2007. A devil ray, Mobula mobular, was introduced in 2003 and lives there still.


Human influences such as fishing and use in Chinese medicines are severe threats to the manta ray population. Taking roughly 12 months for a female manta ray to give birth to a single pup it is no surprise that these creatures are extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

In culture

The ancient Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

vian Moche
'The Moche civilization flourished in northern Peru from about 100 AD to 800 AD, during the Regional Development Epoch. While this issue is the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state...

 people worshipped the sea and its animals. Their art often depicts manta rays. Not knowing about their gentle nature, two 1930s movies played on the manta's "fearsome" appearance: 1930's The Sea Bat
The Sea Bat
The Sea Bat is a 1930 thriller film directed by Lionel Barrymore and Wesley Ruggles, starring Raquel Torres and featuring Boris Karloff. Part of the movie was filmed on location in Mazatlán, Mexico....

, starring a pre-Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1931 film)
Frankenstein is a 1931 Pre-Code Horror Monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff, and features...

Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff
William Henry Pratt , better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor.Karloff is best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein , Bride of Frankenstein , and Son of Frankenstein...

, and 1936's The Sea Fiend, later re-issued as the 1946 Devil Monster
Devil Monster
Devil Monster is a 1935 American film directed by S. Edwin Graham. The working title of the film was The Great Manta and it was shown in Great Britain as The Sea Fiend in 1938...


In 2009, SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando is a theme park, and marine-life based zoological park, near Orlando, Florida. It is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Blackstone Group...

 debuted Manta, a flying roller coaster
Flying roller coaster
A flying roller coaster is a variation of roller coaster meant to simulate the sensations of flight by harnessing riders in a prone position during the duration of the ride. The roller coaster cars are suspended below the track, with riders secured such that their backs are parallel to the track...

 themed to resemble the manta ray, along with an exhibit featuring other ray species. A similar attraction
Manta (SeaWorld San Diego)
Manta will be a steel family launched roller coaster at SeaWorld San Diego in San Diego, California, USA. The ride will be manufactured by MACK Rides and is expected to open in 2012...

 will debut at SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego is an animal theme park, oceanarium, and marine mammal park, located in San Diego, California, United States. The park is owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a division of The Blackstone Group....

 in 2012.

The original Opel Manta
Opel Manta
The Opel Manta was a rear-wheel-drive sports coupé motor vehicle built by Opel, from 1970 to 1988.-1970–75: Opel Manta A:The Manta A was released in September 1970, two months ahead of the then new Opel Ascona on which it was based...

 A sports coupe build in the 70s in Germany derives its name from its distinctive front section that is designed to imitate the shape of the Manta rays "face".

The American alternative rock band Pixies has also recorded songs called "Manta Ray" and "Dancing the Manta Ray." In 2010, the alternative band Ludo
Ludo (band)
Ludo is an alternative rock band from St. Louis, Missouri. The band consists of lead vocalist/guitarist Andrew Volpe, lead guitarist/back up vocalist Tim Ferrell, moog/synth and back up vocalist Tim Convy, and drummer/back up vocalist Matt Palermo.-History:...

 released a song titled "Manta Rays."

The Manta Ray is one of the animals available in the Marine Mania expansion pack of Zoo Tycoon
Zoo Tycoon
Zoo Tycoon is a business simulation developed by Blue Fang Games and released by Microsoft Game Studios. It is a tycoon game in which the player must run a zoo and try to make a profit. Although first released for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh in 2001, it was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2005...

and its sequel Zoo Tycoon 2
Zoo Tycoon 2
Zoo Tycoon 2 is a video game in which the player may create and operate a zoo by managing its finances, employees and animal exhibits. The goal is to become a "zoo tycoon". Originally released for Windows, Zoo Tycoon 2 is also available for Windows Mobile, PDA, Mac OS X and Nintendo DS...


External links

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