Pacific Manta Ray

The taxonomy of the manta ray is somewhat confusing. Until recently there were four valid manta ray species including the Manta hamiltoni. However, it is now thought that they are all one species though this has yet to be confirmed. The Pacific manta ray is very similar in appearance to the stingrays, only without the sting at the end of their tail.

They have a large, spherical body that can attain widths of 20 feet or more. The fins of the manta ray are attached to the sides of its body and look like wings. There are also two fins at the head of the manta that look like horns and give rise to the name of Devil Ray. These fins are used to corral food into the mantas mouth which is located on its underside.

Manta rays have a cartilaginous skeleton, like the shark, and have rough skin. The Pacific manta ray is a dark color on its dorsal surface and a much lighter color on its ventral side. They are often found with Remoras attached to their undersides. These scavenger fish feed from the mantas leftovers. It is also common to find manta rays at “cleaning station” where fish like the wrasse will groom them.

Food

The primary food source of the Pacific manta ray is plankton. However, they do eat small fish and crustaceans.

Habitat

Pacific mantas are found in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. They primarily live near the surface of the water usually near shore but occasionally in deeper water.

Predators

Manta rays are occasionally killed by sharks or killer whales. Other than that, they have no real predators.

Social Structure

Manta rays are relatively solitary creatures. They do not form actual schools but they are often found in areas that provide rich food sources. Manta rays, which lack a sting in their tail, are not dangerous to humans except through defensive actions. They are very powerful and when startled can react violently. However, their primary reaction is to leave.

Birth & Offspring

Manta rays give live birth, usually to two pups. The young manta rays are born in shallow water near shore and will stay here until they mature. They can usually be found on the bottom covered with sand as camouflage against predators.

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