Giant Manta Ray Facts
- Perhaps most notably, the surprising animal typically known as 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. Furthermore, the supremely impressive animal also sometimes goes by the alternate common name of the Giant oceanic manta ray.
- In addition, the creature further currently bears the scientific name of Mobula birostris. By any name, though, this remarkable species remains a member of the Mobulidae Family, in scientific classification. But, prior to 2017, scientists placed it in the genus Manta. Newer DNA testing, however, placed it in the genus Mobula. Therefore, it received a new name.
- For the moment, the IUCN lists the magnificent Giant Manta Ray as Vulnerable. This rating appears in the organizations’ Red List of Threatened Species. This ranking occurs partly due to a variety of factors. These include a recent increase of its targeting in commercial fishing practices, largely due to a rise in its popularity in traditional Chinese medicine.
- In addition, accidental bycatch also represents a further danger to the 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. This consists of the ongoing and escalating threat posed by climate change.
Giant Manta Ray Physical Description
Firstly, the astonishing Giant Manta Ray, like many species, displays a moderate degree of the trait of sexual dimorphism. Secondly, 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 larger female reaches an average span of about 18 – 22.3 ft (5.5 – 6.8 m). meanwhile, the somewhat smaller male attains an average span of roughly 17 – 20 ft (5.2 – 6.1 m). Further, an average weight for both genders remains approximately 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. However, regardless of size, both genders possess the same general body shape. That consists of a highly flattened, roughly triangular form.
In addition, it also possesses smaller fins near the head which it keeps rolled up while swimming. This species actually has 18 rows of small teeth. The eyes remain small and sit on the side of the head. The tail also grows long and slender in shape. The upper body typically appears black or steely blue and the underbelly generally an off-white 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 fabulous 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. But, in the other Hemisphere, it appears as far south as South Africa and New Zealand.
However, its exact environment appears to vary. That’s because some stay closer to shore, while the majority prefer to inhabit areas further out to sea. However, in all regions, the Giant Manta Ray 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 species, which prefer greater depths.
The fish also evolved an extraordinary inter-dependency with several varieties of fish known colloquially as cleaners. These species 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. This astounding cooperation, therefore, benefits both species involved.
It also evolved as a filter feeder by nature, like some related creatures. In its case, the massive animal preys almost exclusively on zooplankton. These the animal strains through its numerous rows of teeth. Also, and quite remarkably, it feeds by swimming in vertical loops. Research indicates that this behavioral pattern developed as a means of keeping its prey within easy reach.
Most commonly, this incredible species lives a primarily solitary life. However, on occasion, individuals will group together temporarily, in groups of as many as 50 individuals. The precise reason for this remains a mystery to researchers. Finally, due to its great size, it has very few natural predators. Generally, only large sharks and some dolphins pose any threat to it.