Giant Manta Ray Facts
- Perhaps most notably, the surprising animal typically known by the common name of the Giant Manta Ray remains quite aptly named. This holds true due to the impressive fact that it presently constitutes the largest variety of ray known to exist.
- The supremely impressive animal also sometimes goes by the alternate common name of the Giant oceanic manta ray. Its scientific name, meanwhile, remains that of Mobula birostris. By any name, though, it’s a truly remarkable work of Nature.
- The species also lists as a member of the Mobulidae Family, in scientific classification. Prior to 2017, though, scientists placed it in the genus Manta. Newer DNA testing, however, placed it in the genus Mobula. It therefore received a new name.
- For the moment, the IUCN lists the magnificent Giant Manta Ray as Vulnerable. This rating appears on the organizations’ published Red List of Threatened Species. This ranking further occurs partly due to a wide variety of factors, unfortunately.
- These include a recent increase of its targeting in commercial fishing practices, largely due to a rise in its popularity in traditional Chinese medicine. Accidental bycatch also continues to represent a further danger to the magnificent animal.
- This holds true due to the fact that this frequently traps large numbers of the species. However, the powerful creature also now faces the same threat species around the world are dealing with. That’s the ongoing and escalating threat of climate change.
Giant Manta Ray Physical Description
The Giant Manta Ray, like many species, displays a moderate degree of the trait of sexual dimorphism. In the case of this creature, that characteristic presents itself in terms of physical size. That holds true because females of the species tend to be slightly larger.
The female reaches an average span of about 18 – 22.3 ft (5.5 – 6.8 m). The somewhat smaller male attains an average span of roughly 17 – 20 ft (5.2 – 6.1 m). An average weight for both genders remains about the same, however. This equals roughly 3,527 lb (1,600 kg).
Yet, exceptional individuals of both genders do occasionally attain a significantly greater size. In fact, one specimen measured 29.9 ft (9.1 m) across the wings. Regardless of size, both genders have the same body shape. That consists of a flattened, roughly triangular form.
The Giant Manta Ray also possesses smaller fins positioned relatively near the head. These it typically keeps rolled up while swimming, however. This species actually has 18 rows of small teeth. The eyes, meanwhile, remain small and sit on the side of the head.
The tail of this wonder of evolution also grows comparatively long, as well as extremely slender in shape. The upper body of the species most commonly appears black or steely blue. The underbelly, though, generally displays an off-white to grayish color.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Chondrichthyes
- Order: Myliobatiformes
- Family: Mobulidae
- Genus: Mobula
- Species: M. birostris
Giant Manta Ray Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Astoundingly, the Giant Manta Ray has a nearly global pattern of distribution. That’s because the gorgeous species inhabits almost all temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. To the north, it appears as far as both coast of the United States, in North America.
In the other Hemisphere, though, it appears as far south as South Africa and New Zealand. Its exact environment, however, appears to vary significantly. That’s because some stay closer to shore, while the majority prefer to inhabit areas further out to sea.
However, in all regions in which it appears, the fabulous animal apparently prefers to inhabit shallower waters. In fact, it rarely appears at depths exceeding 394 ft ( 120 m). This fact also separates it from most related of its related species, which prefer greater depths.
The fish also evolved an extraordinary inter-dependency with several varieties of fish known as cleaners. These the ray approaches, and then stays motionless for several minutes. While it does, the cleaners consume the external parasites from the skin of the creature.
It also evolved as a filter feeder by nature. In its case, the animal preys almost exclusively on zooplankton. These the animal strains through its rows of teeth. It also feeds by swimming in vertical loops. This pattern developed as a means of keeping its prey within easy reach.
Most commonly, the Giant Manta Ray appears to prefer to live a primarily solitary life. On occasion, individuals will nevertheless group together temporarily. When this happens, members of the species band together in groups of as many as 50 individuals.