Manta is the scientific designation for Manta Rays. For many years, researchers believed there was just one type of manta ray. However, researchers found two separate species: Manta Alfredi known as the Reef Manta Ray, and Manta Birostris known as Giant Oceanic Manta Ray.

The most notable is the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray for its worldwide range and size, while the Reef Manta Ray is smaller and can be found in the Indo-Pacific. Mantas get their name from a hybrid of Portuguese and Spanish words that translate to “blanket”, referencing the wide flat appearance.


Manta Rays have broad, flattened, diamond-shaped bodies and triangle pectoral fins on each side of their bodies, which, as they move, look similar to wings. Its head has two cephalic lobes that protrude from the front, earning it the nickname “demon fish.” Manta Rays come in two colors kinds. 

Close-up of a male Manta Ray.
Close-up of a male Manta Ray

While some are virtually all black, others feature chevron coloration, with black back sides and white abdomen. On their bellies, they feature characteristic spot markings. The huge Oceanic Manta Ray may weigh thousands of pounds and have a wingspan that can reach a length of 15 ft.


Manta Rays can look intimidating due to their size; however, they are not ferocious. Manta rays are both macro predators and filter feeders. They ingest a lot of zooplankton at the surface, including shrimp, krill, and crabs. Mantas eat tiny to medium-sized fish at greater depths. Mantas that are actively foraging flatten their cephalic fins to direct prey into their jaws. 

The tissue between the gill arches collects tiny particles during filter feeding. Manta Rays employ a variety of strategies for feeding more effectively, including “piggie backs” and “chain feeding.” For optimal filter feeding, Manta Rays, in particular, may congregate together in groups of 100 to 150, creating a swirl like a cyclone.


The only time giant Manta Rays are found together is when they are feeding. Manta Rays frequently visit cleaning stations, places on coral reefs where other marine life congregates to be groomed by smaller organisms. At cleaning stations, Manta Rays remain motionless for a few moments while cleaner fish extract pests and necrotic skin. 

Manta Ray as seen from below, note the dark spots on its bottom.
Manta Ray as seen from below, note the dark spots on its bottom

Manta Rays frequently frequent the same sites on an individual basis. They can be found in every ocean on the globe. They are divided into numerous modest communities. The area with the biggest population is said to be Ecuador, where they may be found in areas like the Galapagos Marine Reserve and Machalilla National Park.


In different areas of the Manta’s habitat, mating occurs at various times of the year. A full moon may launch the mating process, which appears to be started by a male trailing a female closely before semen is deposited in a complex maneuver.

At the ages of 8 to 10, female Manta Rays reach sexual maturity and typically give birth once every two years to one or occasionally two Manta pups. Manta Rays deliver live offspring after a roughly 12- to 13-month gestation period. When Manta-Ray pups are born, they resemble a miniature version of adults yet are capable of surviving on their own right away. Manta Rays have a 50-year lifespan.


Large sharks, orcas, and fake killer whales may prey on Mantas. Additionally, parasitic threats may be present. Overfishing is the biggest threat to Manta Rays, alongside other human influences experienced by Manta Rays. Manta Rays are susceptible to entanglement, which can lead to asphyxia. This is because they must move continuously to flush oxygen-rich water over their gills. 

Manta Ray just below the surface.
Manta Ray just below the surface

Mantas are unable to swim backward and are vulnerable to becoming entangled in fishing lines and nets due to their prominent cephalic fins. Mantas frequently attempt to escape when ensnared by somersaulting, which causes them to become more entangled. A wound that is irreversibly damaged can be caused by a loose, trailing line that wraps around and cuts its way into its tissue.

Facts about the Manta Ray

  1. The biggest known Manta Ray was 5,000 lbs and had a span of 30 ft.
  2. Manta Rays have the biggest brain-to-body ratio of any cold-blooded fish
  3. Manta Rays have complex feeding maneuvers that involve other specimens.
  4. Manta Rays are capable of jumping out of water.
  5. Manta Rays give each other piggybacks.


Are Manta Rays harmful to humans?

Manta rays are harmless even if they appear to be dangerous. They lack a stinger, unlike their cousin’s sting rays, and have no actual means of inflicting harm. Although they have about 300 tiny fangs, they are undoubtedly too weak to pierce human skin.

What happens if a Manta Ray stops swimming?

Manta rays are a species of fish that are “constantly in perpetual motion.” Mantas must continue to move in order to survive, which means they never stop swimming. Because swimming forces water over their gills, which they need to take oxygen, they cannot obtain oxygen when they are not swimming.

Are Manta Rays intelligent?

The Manta Ray is a rather intelligent species since it has the biggest brain-to-body weight ratio of any living fish. According to some, having such a big brain contributes to their curiosity and willingness to approach people. Additionally, they are gregarious creatures that engage in activities like playing and foraging.

Can you touch a Manta Ray?

Manta rays have a mucous membrane covering them that shields them from dangerous microorganisms; if it is removed, the ray becomes vulnerable to disease and suffers immune system impairment. This is why handling Manta Rays in the wild are strictly prohibited since doing so will destroy their protective mucous layer.

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