The Giant Manta Ray remains the largest known species of Ray on earth.
It has also evolved an extraordinary inter-dependency with several varieties of fish known colloquially as cleaners. These species inhabit coral reefs, which the ray will approach, and then remain motionless for several minutes. While it does, the cleaners will consume the external parasites from the skin of the creature – a process that serves both creatures. In essence, the Rays have developed their own self-service cleaning station.
Giant Manta Ray Physical Description
The Giant Manta Ray can reach a size of as much as 23 ft (7 m) across, and their weight – an astonishing 2,980 lb (1,350 kg). Their body shape is extensively flattened.
The primary wings of the Giant Manta Ray are a remarkable triangular shape. They also possess smaller fins near their heads which they keep rolled up while swimming.
This species actually has 18 rows of small teeth. The eyes are small and sit on the side of the head. Their tail is long and slender in shape. The upper body is typically black or steely blue and the underbelly is generally an off-white color.
Giant Manta Ray Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The animal inhabits almost all temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. It spends the majority of its life far from land – safer from humans that way, too. In fact, the Giant Manta Ray prefers to travel with the ocean currents.
The ray may be found either singly or in groups of as many as 50 individuals. Due to their great size and impressive speed, they have few natural predators. However, the IUCN has listed them as Vulnerable due to declining numbers, as a result of commercial fishing.