The Scoop: Gentle giants of the ocean
Manta Rays are gentle giants, quietly cruising the open sea in search of plankton and other food. They are pelagic fish, which means that they live neither close to the bottom of the ocean (like stingrays) or near the shore. The larger species, M. birostris, tends to migrate across the ocean either by themselves or in groups, while the smaller species, M. alfredi, usually sticks to one territory.
Mantas are “filter feeders” (like baleen whales, clams and sponges); they swim open mouthed in the water and swallow large amounts of plankton, shrimp and krill. They have two large flaps in front of their bodies that they use to help scoop even more plankton into their rectangle shaped mouths.
They might live alone or in groups of up to 50, and are often found to associate with other groups of fish species, marine birds or marine mammals. They can dive up to 400 meters or 1,200 feet, but usually just swim idly through the ocean as they eat.
Females will carry the eggs of their young for over a year. The pups are born tightly rolled up like a burrito, but quickly expand their fins. Since they are born fully developed, they take care of themselves immediately in the great big ocean.
- The word “manta” is Spanish for “blanket”.
- Manta rays have 300 tiny, peg-like teeth, about the size of a head of pin.
- Like sharks, it has never been scientifically verified that manta rays sleep!
- Unlike stingrays that like to bury in the sand, manta rays swim the open oceans and only use the sand of the sea bed to get clean.
- Manta rays have large brains. In fact, they have the largest brain to body weight ratio of any fish (making it just about as smart as a dolphin).
- Manta rays look similar to devil rays, but one key difference is the manta ray’s dog-ear-like plankton “scoopers” at the front of its body.