Manta rays are found in tropical and warm temperate coastal regions of the world's oceans, generally between 35 degrees north and south latitude, including the coasts of southern Africa, ranging from southern California to northern Peru, North Carolina to southern Brazil, and the Gulf of Mexico. (Bigelow and Schroeder, 1954; FishBase, 1999; OceanLink, 1997)
Manta rays are easily reconized in the ocean by their large pectoral "wings." Chondrichthyes, is that the entire skeleton is made of cartilage, which allows for a wide range of motion. These rays vary in color from black to grayish blue along the back, and a white underside with grayish blotchs that have been used to identify individual rays. The skin of manta rays is rough and scaly, like that of most sharks. ("Manta Rays", 1989; Acker (MRBH), 2001; Bigelow and Schroeder, 1954)have no caudal fins and a small dorsal fin. They have two cephalic lobes that extend from the front of the head and a broad, rectangular, terminal mouth containing small teeth exclusively in the lower jaw. The gills are located on the underside of the body. Manta rays also have a short, whip-like tail that, unlike many rays, has no sharp barb. Atlantic manta ray pups weigh 11 kg at birth and their growth is rapid, with pups virtually doubling the body width from birth through the first year of life. Manta rays show little dimorphism between the sexes with wingspan in males ranging from 5.2 - 6.1 meters and females ranging from 5.5 - 6.8 meters. The largest ever recorded was 9.1 meters. One of the distinct features of manta rays, and of the class
Manta rays are filter feeders and primarily planktivores. They often slowly swim in vertical loops. Some researchers suggest this is done to keep the rays prey within the area while feeding. Their large, gaping mouths and cephalic lobes unfurled are used to corral planktonic crustaceans and small schooling fish. Manta rays filter water through their gills and organisms in the water are trapped by a filtering device, which consists of plates in the back of the mouth that are made of pinkish-brown tissue that span between the support structures of the gills. The teeth of ("Manta Rays", 1992; Dive Asia, 2004; Perlmutter, 1961)are nonfunctional during feeding.
have no adverse affects on humans.
Population sizes ofare unknown. Because of their slow reproductive rate, they are very vulnerable to overfishing. However, there does not appear to be commercial harvesting at this time. The IUCN lists this species as "Data Deficient," meaning they don't have enough information to assess its conservation status.
The average life span ofis 18-20 years. The Atlantic manta ray was once thought to be aggressive and harmful to humans as sailors created myths about them. The common myth was that mantas could capsize ones boat by leaping out of the water and crashing down upon it. Another common misconception is that mantas drown swimmers by wrapping around them. They are called "devil" ray because of the cephalic fins at the front of their heads, which resemble the horns of a devil. Also fishing boats reported that Atlantic manta rays would circle about their boats for long periods of time. These mantas were probably just displaying their corralling behavior during feeding.
In the past, two other species of manta, known as the "lesser" devil rays, Manta alfredi (Prince Alfred's manta ray) were considered separate from . They have since been recognized as the same species, all now called M. birostris.(Pacific manta ray) and
George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Gregory Shuraleff II (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.
body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
specialized for swimming
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).
structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
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Acker (MRBH), B. 2001. "Manta facts" (On-line). Manta Ray Bay Hotel and Yap Divers. Accessed 11/01/04 at http://www.mantaray.com.
Bigelow, H., W. Schroeder. 1954. Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Copenhagen: Yale University.
Colla (oceanlight), P., R. Martin. 1998. "Giant Pacific Manta Ray Photos/On the Biology of the Manta Ray" (On-line). Phillip Colla Photography. Accessed 11/01/04 at http://www.oceanlight.com/html/manta_birostris.html.
Dive Asia, 2004. "Dive Asia Reef Ecology Guide- Cartilaginous Fishes" (On-line). Dive Asia, Diving in Phuket, Thailand and Burma. Accessed 11/01/04 at http://www.diveasia.com/reef-guide/cartilaginous.htm.
FishBase, 1999. "Manta birostris" (On-line). FishBase.org. Accessed March 7, 2000 at http://www.fishbase.org/Seach.cfm.
McCormick, H., T. Allen, W. Young. 1963. Shadows of the Sea. Philadelphia: Chilton Company.
OceanLink, 1997. "Ocean Link Answers to Chondrichthyes Questions" (On-line). OceanLink. Accessed 11/01/04 at http://oceanlink.island.net/ask/chondrichthyes.html#anchor139401.
Perlmutter, A. 1961. Guide to Marine Fishes. New York: New York University Press.
Yano, K., F. Sato, T. Tomoko. 1999. Observations of mating behavior of the manta ray, Manta birostris, at the Ogasawara Islands, Japan. Ichthyological Research, 46: 289-296.