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Manta Ray

Updated on February 25, 2016

Genus Manta

Manta Ray Description

 There are several different types of rays in the waters, and one that definitely gets attention due to the size is the Manta Ray. They can grow to a width of up to 25 feet and they can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. They aren’t going to harm you though as some other types of rays can. This is because they don’t have a stinger.

They don’t have much of a defense mechanism against predators. Many experts believe that is why they offer such great coloring. The fact that they are dark on the top – either black or brown – and white on the bottom means that they do blend in quite well to their surroundings in the water.

 

Manta Ray Anatomy

 The massive size of their bodies is really amazing, and that is part of why so many people take an interest in them. They have up to 300 rows of very tiny teeth. Yet those aren’t for eating. In fact, it is only speculation that they may be part of the courting process for them. You will notice that they have slats on the sides and this is part of their filtering system. They take in food and water with the water going back out.

Their tails seem very small and out of place on such a large creature. It does serve its purpose though – to be able to help them stay balanced as they move through the water. They don’t swim at a fast rate but they continually move through the water in order to be able to find food. The overall design of their bodies though results in them being able to move with very little energy.

Manta Ray Evolution

 It isn’t’ fully understood how these animals evolved over time. It is believed that they have been around for millions of years though. They were likely bottom feeders at one time. Did they actually once use those teeth to eat but developed a filtering system to better meet their needs? You may find it very interesting to discover that they are related to sharks. This has been proven through DNA evidence. Hopefully one day we will get more answers to these pressing questions.

Manta Ray Behavior

 The Manta Ray is a very gentle creature so you don’t have to worry when you see them in the water. There are plenty of people that do encounter them on a regular basis though. They are extremely curious about people which means they will follow people in the water that are enjoying activities such as scuba diving. They also will stay very close to boats.

Sometimes when they jump they actually end up inside of the boats. They aren’t trying to attack people though. They may just be jumping to end up getting parasites off of their bodies. They can do some damage when they hit the boats though due to their size. It can also result in them being injured or dying due to their size.

They are believed to be highly intelligent which also can explain why they seem to be so interested in what others around them are taking part in. Many experts would love to be able to find out more. However, since they don’t do well in captivity it has proven to be very hard to do though.

Manta Ray Habitat

 They can live in any type of water out there as long as they have adequate food. They tend to enjoy the warmer waters the most but there isn’t evidence of them migrating during the colder part of the year. They are found in the oceans where there is saltwater and many people believe that is the only location for them. However, they can also be found in the fresh water of lakes as well.

It is on the rare occasion that you will get to see one of them in captivity. Therefore you need to relish the experience if you do see one in the wild. It is hard to devise a location for them in captivity that allows them to have enough room. They are also very easily affected by types of bacteria that can grow in a controlled environment.

Manta Ray Feeding Habits

 The filtering system of the Manta Ray is what it ends up using to take in food. They consume several different types of items including fish that are small in size, plankton, and shrimp. When those are scarce they will even consume the larvae of fish. You will notice that they have plates along the size of their bodies. This is where the food it taken in and then the bars on the gills are where the water goes back out. It is a very complex system that is interesting to see in action.

Manta Ray Reproduction

 Since these creatures live so deep in the water most of the time it is hard to learn more about how they reproduce. We don’t know how they end up finding each other to mate. We also don’t know if the males bite the females to attract them or to hold them so they can’t escape.

We do have some information about their mating. For example the males will begin to take part in it when they are approximately 16 feet wide. They will mate with females that are at least 13 feet wide. It is believed that they are able to breed at any time in the year.

The process for the young to be born is very interesting. What will occur is that eggs develop inside of the body of the female. They will then hatch and consume the shells to get nutrition. A while later the mother will give birth to a couple of offspring. They aren’t small by any means as they can be up to 20 pounds at birth.

It takes time for them to develop the strength to swim well enough to go to the bottom of the water though. That is why you will see the smaller ones towards the shore. This is where they will remain for about the first two years.

Manta Ray Predators

 The Manta Ray ends up being a meal for sharks and for orca, especially the younger ones. They don’t have any way to defend themselves against they so they do their best to blend in with their coloring.

People can be a threat to these rays as they think they are dangerous. As a result they may kill them thinking they are protecting themselves. People underwater that touch them don’t realize that this can ruin the membrane that protects them in the water. As a result they can die due to bacteria developing on their bodies.

It is hard to keep them out of the dangerous paths of boats too. As technology allows us to make machines that are faster they can also kill the Manta Rays that get too close. People love to spend their time enjoying the warm waters though just as much as these creatures do.

There aren’t any protective measures in place for the Manta Ray at this time. It appears that they have high enough numbers out here. However, a good count of them is hard to come by. They are too spread out and too deep in the water for them to be able to be accurately calculated.

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