Manta rays are undoubtedly some of the world’s most curious and unique creatures!
Their interesting appearance inspires their name, as they look like they’re wearing a cloak or a blanket!
Besides, these fish are known for being the only vertebrates with three paired appendages—two gill sets, two pectoral fins, and two lobes extending from the mouth.
But wait! That’s not all! Did you know that the two manta ray species have the largest brain weight and ratio among all cold-blooded fish species?
They are believed to be capable of memorizing things, distinguishing objects, and learning new habits. How amazing is that!
Unfortunately, the population of the two extant manta ray species is decreasing.
Learning about what makes them unique can raise awareness and contribute to conservation efforts.
2. Reef Manta Ray
The reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) is one of the world’s largest and longest rays!
In fact, it holds the record in terms of length, being second to the giant oceanic manta ray, which we’ll discuss below!
This ray species is found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and is often spotted in the coastal waters of Hawaii, Micronesia, Bali, and Maldives, among other regions.
It’s primarily sedentary but has been observed moving short distances following zooplankton, its primary food source.
These fish have very distinctive bodies:
- A disc size of around 11 to 16 feet
- Each disc side has large, triangular pectoral fins
- A pair of cephalic fins used for swimming or channelling water into the mouth while feeding
- A small dorsal fin
- A long, whip-like tail
These are only some features that can help you distinguish reef manta rays from other fish alike.
Besides, they have a dark blackish-bluish dorsal side, while the top of the head is of a lighter shade, something in between white and gray.
While the ventral surface is usually white as well, some individuals may exhibit dark spots.
Although they have a sedentary lifestyle, reef manta rays are excellent swimmers and can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour.
This, combined with their large size, makes them hard-to-reach prey. Only big sharks have a chance to kill reef manta rays.
Despite this, the species is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and their population is constantly declining, primarily because they’re being incidentally caught in artisanal and industrial fisheries.
1. Giant Manta Ray
The reef manta ray’s closest relative, the giant manta ray, is often referred to as the oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris).
While its natural habitat includes tropical and subtropical waters, this species is sometimes found in temperate waters as well.
Compared to its species sister, the oceanic manta ray isn’t as sedentary and spends most of its life far from land, although sometimes it’s spotted near offshore oceanic islands.
As we’ve already established, the giant manta ray is the largest of the two, reaching a maximum length of 30 feet and a disc size of 23 feet.
Additionally, it can weigh as much as 6,600 pounds!
It also features large, triangular pectoral fins, a pair of cephalic fins, and whip-like tails.
The giant manta ray has a distinctive appearance – it’s dark on the upper part with some white areas, while the ventral part is white and features some dark spots in the lower abdomen region.
However, besides their unique appearance and huge size, another thing makes giant manta rays curious creatures.
What if we told you that scientists believe they might be able to recognize themselves in the mirror?
This makes the fact that the species is endangered even more regrettable.
Luckily, it is protected in many countries, and other conservation actions are set in motion to help their population.
Hopefully, this will be enough to raise the number of adult individuals.