The Manta Ray (Manta birostris) is an extremely large elasmobranch species that belongs to the family Mobulidae. This species has a widespread distribution and is found in all warm tropical seas. The name ‘manta’ means shawl in Spanish. It is easily recognised by the pair of fleshy cephalic fins or horns on either side of the mouth. The skin on the upper surface is extremely rough and is black in colour. A minute band of teeth occur only in the lower jaw and there is no spine present in the base of the tail. The underbody of the Manta Ray is generally all white with several dark spots.
The Manta Ray is known to feed on small fish and planktonic crustaceans which are filtered from the water by its modified gill apparatus. The cephalic fins/horns are used to guide larger forms of food into the mouth. They can be found on the open ocean where they are often encountered by boats whilst divers might be fortunate enough to see them on coral reefs. They often visit cleaning stations to have cleaner fish removes parasites from their body. Manta’s also have the ability to make spectacular leaps out of the water.
The Manta Ray can grow to an extremely large size weighing up to 2 tonnes with a wingspan of over 7 metres!