Of the 560+ species of rays, there’s only 2 species of manta rays:
Giant manta rays = Oceanic manta rays (Mobula birostris) up to 7m wide and up to 2.000kg
Reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) up to 4,5m wide and up to 700kg and 40 years lifespan
There are different colour patterns
chevron = black/ dark grey back and a white belly
black back and belly with light-coloured patterns
They also have distinct spot patterns on their bellies that can be used to identify individuals. Oceanic manta rays have their belly spots clustered around the lower abdomen below the gills.
The black belly is a rather unusual manta ray fact. Melanism or dark skin pigmentation is not likely to occur in marine animals. Manta rays are the only ones with this phenomenon.
Manta rays mainly feed on plankton and krill – they filter feed with their mouths open – the gill rakers filter the food and expel the water.
Manta rays have to eat roughly 13% of their body weight in plankton each week – to increase their feeding strategies, they somersault and change directions.
Scientists speculation is that mainly male manta rays jump out of the water to attract the attention of the females – the bigger the male manta ray is and the more powerful it falls back into the water the movements of the ocean increases and it’s more likely a female notices it.
Their mating ritual is to perform a mating train, where several male ones follow one female manta, all of them trying to impress her and become her first choice to mate.
Pregnancy lasts for more than one year – usually only one pup at a time
Manta rays are ovoviviparous – they develop inside eggs and when the egg shell breaks open, the mama manta will eventually calve a new born (so they are fish but give birth like a mammal).
Mantas have the largest brain-to-body weight ratio of all fish (so yes, they are rather smart!)
Mantas can’t stop swimming in order to keep breathing – by moving, oxygen- rich water is pushed through their gills.
Mantas can feed and poop at the same time, a feature not attributed to many animals
Manta rays sometimes end up with clogged- up gills from filter- feeding. Thankfully, they’re able to dislodge trapped food through so- called “coughing” or “vomiting”. That vomit turns out to be a treat for surrounding fish!
Manta rays have their own group of friends
Usually female mantas have two different groups of friends – one for cleaning, one for feeding (the feeding group is a mixture of male, female and young ones)
Males prefer feeding stations, females are more likely to be found at cleaning stations