Giant oceanic manta ray facts, pictures, video and in-depth information. Looking like a bizarre alien spaceship as it swims through the water, the giant oceanic manta ray is the world’s largest ray. This huge fish can reach weights of over 1 tonne! Let’s discover more about this amazing species …
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Facts
- Other Name(s): Giant manta ray, chevron manta ray, oceanic manta ray, Pacific manta ray, pelagic manta ray
- Scientific name: Manta birostris
- Type of Animal: Fish
- Animal Family: Mobulidae
- Where Found: Tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters around the world
- Average Disc Width: 4.5m (15ft)
- Average Weight: 1,350kg (2,980lb)
- Conservation Status: Vulnerable
- Other interesting giant oceanic manta ray facts: The giant oceanic manta ray has the largest brain of any fish.
Meet The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray: Introduction
The giant oceanic manta ray is the world’s largest species of ray. Particularly large individuals can be over 7m (23ft) in width. There are anecdotal reports of specimens measuring a whopping 9.1m (30ft) across!
Rays are closely related to sharks. Both are members of the class Chondrichthyes, otherwise known as the cartilaginous fishes. Instead of bone, the skeletons of fishes in this group are made of a flexible material called cartilage.
The giant oceanic manta ray is closely related to the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi).
(Want to know more about terms such as ‘class’ and how animals are classified? Check out this page: Animal Classification.)
Like many of the largest ocean animals, the giant oceanic manta ray is a filter feeder. Its diet consists of some of the smallest undersea organisms. (We’ll find out more about the giant oceanic manta ray’s diet further down the page.)
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Video
Watch the video below to see amazing underwater footage of giant oceanic manta rays!
What Does The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Look Like?
Like all rays, the giant oceanic manta ray has a wide, flat body and a pair of triangular, wing-like pectoral (side) fins. On its back is a small dorsal fin, and it has a long, thin tail.
Protruding forwards from either side of the giant oceanic manta ray’s mouth are its cephalic fins. These are extensions to the pectoral fins, and can either be rolled into a horn-like shape when the animal is swimming or spread out to assist with feeding.
The giant oceanic manta ray’s eyes are positioned behind the cephalic fins, and its gills are located on the underside of its body. Its teeth are small and arranged into 18 rows on the lower jaw.
The typical body coloration is black above and white / cream underneath, with large white ‘shoulder patch’ markings on the back. Some individuals have a dark brown or a steely blue upper body, while others are almost entirely black or white.
There are often spots and blotches on the underside of the body in a pattern unique to each individual.
The shoulder patch markings are shaped like the letter ‘T’ on the giant oceanic manta ray, while on the closely related reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) they resemble the letter ‘Y’.
The giant oceanic manta ray is a widespread species and can be found in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters worldwide. It is sparsely distributed and usually found in tropical and subtropical waters.
The northernmost sightings are from southern California, Japan, Egypt and the Azores islands, while the southernmost observations have been recorded in Peru, Uruguay, South Africa and New Zealand.
The giant oceanic manta ray is usually found far from land. However, it is known to visit coastal areas on a seasonal basis, often returning to specific sites year after year.
The species may also be spotted around seamounts (undersea mountains) and oceanic island groups as well as in shallow reefs and seagrass beds.
The giant oceanic manta ray is migratory and capable of traveling great distances. One individual tracked by a satellite covered over 683 mi (1,100 km) during a migration from Mozambique to South Africa.
Giant oceanic manta rays can dive to depths of over 1,000m (3,281 ft.) and are also known to leap out of the water.
The species is typically solitary, although it is occasionally found in groups of up to 50 individuals. Aggregations such as these are more likely to occur in areas rich in food or when the animals are meeting in order to mate.
Manta rays are often seen visiting ‘cleaner fish’ such as wrasses. Cleaner fish feed on dead skin and parasites on the ray’s body.
The giant oceanic manta ray is capable of swimming at 15 mph (24 km/h) to escape a predator.
What Does The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Eat?
The giant oceanic manta ray is a filter feeder. Swimming with its mouth open, the animal directs food-laden water into its mouth with its cephalic fins.
Zooplankton – including krill, shrimp and planktonic crabs – are filtered from the water through a spongy, pinkish-brown tissue known as gill rakers.
The giant oceanic manta ray can eat around 13% of its body weight every week.
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Facts: Reproduction
When mating, a group of males trails behind a receptive female in a formation known as a ‘mating train’. This can go on for several days before one of the males mates with the female.
The fertilized egg hatches inside the female’s body after a gestation period of about 12 months. It is thought that the birth usually takes place at night in shallow coastal waters. Usually only a single pup is born, although females can occasionally give birth to two pups.
On average, a newborn pup weighs 9kg (20lb) and has a width of 1.4m (4ft). During the first year of its life, the pup may double its size.
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Predators
Thanks to its huge size, a full-grown giant oceanic manta ray has little to fear from most other ocean creatures. However, the species can fall prey to large predators such as the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), false killer whale (Pseudora crassidens) and the killer whale (Orcinus orca). Many giant oceanic manta rays bear scars from shark bites.
Is The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Endangered?
The giant oceanic manta ray is rated ‘Vulnerable‘ by the IUCN.
The total population size of the species is unknown, but subpopulations tend be fairly small (consisting of about 100 to 1000 manta rays). Furthermore, because there is little mixing between the subgroups and the females usually give birth to only a single pup at a time, giant oceanic manta ray subpopulations are particularly vulnerable to local extinctions.
The main threats to the survival of the species include:
- Fishing: The giant oceanic manta ray is targeted by fishermen, often at an unsustainable level. The animals are caught for food as well as for their gill rakers and oil-rich liver, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Harpooning, netting and trawling are used to catch the rays.
- Bycatch: The species is also accidentally caught by large-scale fisheries, and sometimes they get entangled in shark control nets.
Other potential threats include pollution and micro plastics, boat strikes, irresponsible tourism practices, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change.
Conservation measures are in place in the United States, the Republic of Maldives, Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Western Australia and New Zealand.
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray Facts: Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed discovering the amazing giant oceanic manta ray. You can find out about more awesome ocean animals on the following pages: