10 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Manta Rays
Manta Rays are the most stunning creatures on earth, and witnessing them in person is a fantastic experience. They are highly intelligent, gregarious creatures frequently sighted in the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
These gentle giants are essential to the ecosystems of our coral reefs. Mantas often travel between coral reefs and the deep ocean, where they eat a particular kind of zooplankton. Their feces are fertilizer when they return to the reef, giving the coral nutrients that are not present nearby. This stimulates coral growth and contributes to the preservation of coral reef health.
Sadly like many marine creatures, Mantas are listed as vulnerable, which means their population decreases yearly. The rise in water temperatures, poorer water quality from sediment run-off, and overfishing threaten these species. Their long lifespan and slow reproduction rate mean that overfished populations struggle to recover properly.
Here are ten fascinating facts about these unique creatures you should know before you dive in.
Manta Rays: Devil Fish
The name “Manta” comes from the Spanish language and means “blanket” or “cloak .”The name perfectly describes the appearance of the animal’s large, flat, diamond-shaped bodies, symbolized by triangle-shaped pectoral fins.
Manta rays also have two fins shaped like horns that protrude from their head, which led them to the nickname “Devil fish.”
Manta Rays Habitat
Mantas generally live in warm, tropical, and subtropical waters. These locations include Fiji, Thailand, Maldives, the Bahamas, Indonesia, Spain, and Australia.
The furthest north a manta has been recorded was near South Carolina in the United States; the southernmost record was around the North Island of New Zealand.
Manta Rays: The Largest and Smartest Fish in the Ocean
Mantas have the giant brains of all fish and are particularly good at problem-solving and communicating. Manta Rays are much larger, with some having a wingspan of up to 7 feet and weighing up to two tons!
Like elephants, dolphins, and apes, they have shown tremendous intelligence and long-term memory capacity. They can also pass the mirror test and even use their senses of smell and sight to map their underwater world.
The best places to witness them are some fantastic resorts. Visit Manta Ray Island Resort to spot Mantas.
Manta Rays: Particular about Hygiene
Mantas keep stopping at Reef “cleaning stations.” Smaller wrasse typically manages these special locations on the reef, cleaning parasites and dead skin from the bodies of passing creatures. Mantas will calmly wait for an hour while these cleaners arrive at their jobs, frequently returning to the same spot.
Manta Rays: Reproduction
Around the age of eight, female manta rays reach sexual maturity and often give birth to one or two pups after two years.
Baby mantas are born looking like small adults after a 12- to 13-month pregnancy and do not require any further care from their mothers. Mantas have a uterus, like most mammals, where their eggs mature into pups. Inside the mother, fertilized egg cases develop into pups.
Regardless of outside threats, they can live for up to 50 years!
Manta Rays: Covered in a Mucous Film
Mantas are covered in a mucous film that shields them from dangerous microorganisms; if this film is removed, it can leave the ray open to illness and damage their immune system.
This is why touching Manta Rays in the wild are strictly prohibited because doing so will remove their protective mucous film.
A basic rule is to avoid touching or picking up anything that lives in the ocean.
Manta Rays: Smart Cookies
Mantas are the most intelligent fish in the ocean. They’re known for being inquisitive. Mantas’ gregarious and curious natures are supposed to be explained by their unique brain structure.
They seem to have unique personalities and show an interest in watching divers. They possess the giant brains of any fish, filled with glial cells that are believed to be linked to intelligence.
Manta Rays: Swim to Stay Alive
Like many species of shark, manta rays are constantly in motion. Mantas must continue to move to survive, which means they never stop swimming.
The forward motion from swimming pushes water over their gills to obtain oxygen, so they are not getting any oxygen when they are not swimming.
Manta rays accidentally caught in human fishing nets are at extreme risk of death because they can get stuck and become immobilized.
Manta Rays: Fly and Dive
Manta rays have often been spotted leaping out of the water. While this spectacular action is unexplained by marine scientists, some experts believe that this behavior could relate to mating rituals or removing parasites.
Giant manta rays are also deep divers. They can dive more than one kilometer below the surface!
Manta Rays: Harmless Creatures
Although Manta Rays look dangerous, they are completely harmless to humans, with a non-functioning tail spine and 300 tiny little teeth.
They do not have a stinger and don’t have any way of hurting you. Being filter feeders, their standard diet consists of crustaceans, plankton, and small fish.
If a Manta feels threatened or in danger around you, it will flee at speeds of 24/km/h.