40+ interesting facts about manta rays (Oceanic giants of the seas)

30+ interesting facts about manta rays

Manta rays – the gentle giants of the oceans answers to questions asked

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If you’ve got a question about manta rays. If you are interested in facts about the ocean’s gentle giants. Then this article brings plenty of interesting facts about manta rays…

30+ interesting facts about manta rays - Oceanic giants of the seas

Interesting facts about manta rays in 20 seconds…

Interesting facts about manta rays include the word “Manta” which takes the meaning of blanket or cloak in Spanish. They are also known as devil rays and are a common tattoo representing graceful strength and wisdom. Manta ray have the largest brain relative to body size of all known species of fish. Their diet consists of plankton, small fish and small crustaceans like krill. The largest ever recorded manta rays is 9.1 metres (30 feet), which is wider than a giraffe is tall.

Questions, answers and interesting facts about manta rays:

  1. Is a manta ray dangerous?
  2. Are manta rays smart?
  3. How fast can a manta ray swim?
  4. Do manta rays attack humans?
  5. Has anyone died from a manta ray?
  6. Is it safe to swim with manta rays?
  7. Can you touch manta rays?
  8. Do Manta Rays jump out of water?
  9. Why do manta rays jump?
  10. Can manta rays fly?
  11. What eats a manta ray?
  12. Can you eat a manta ray?
  13. How old are manta rays?
  14. What do you call a group of manta rays?
  15. Why do Manta Rays have tails?
  16. How would you describe a manta ray?
  17. How do manta rays communicate?
  18. How do manta rays mate?
  19. Do manta rays lay eggs?
  20. How do manta rays give birth?
  21. Where do manta rays live?
  22. Where in the world can you swim with manta rays?
  23. Can a manta ray stab you?
  24. How deep can a manta ray dive?
  25. What does a manta ray tattoo mean?
  26. How do manta rays protect themselves?
  27. How many manta rays are there?
  28. How big is a manta ray?
  29. What is the largest manta ray ever recorded?
  30. Do manta rays have bones?
  31. Can Manta Rays see and do they have eyes?
  32. Where are a manta rays eyes?
  33. What are baby manta rays called?
  34. How long do manta rays live?
  35. What do manta rays eat?
  36. Do dolphins eat manta rays?
  37. How many gill clefts do manta rays have?
  38. Do manta rays have swim bladders?
  39. Do manta rays have to swim continuously?
  40. Do manta rays sleep?
  41. Can manta rays close their mouths?
  42. Why do fish swim under manta rays?

The answers to questions about manta rays with some interesting facts:

1. Is a manta ray dangerous?

Manta Rays aren’t dangerous at all. But instead they are gentle harmless creatures. Mantas would never hurt a diver, snorkeler or swimmer. But instead manta rays are often quite curious creatures and happy to swim around divers or snorkelers.

Whilst manta rays are huge creatures and might initially look intimidating to some, they are quite the opposite and are gentle giants.

My advice is when and if you have the privilege to encounter these magnificent creatures; enjoy and treat them with respect. In return, you’ll be treated to what I can only describe as an almost magical experience as they glide and drift back and forth around you.

2. Are manta rays smart?

Manta rays have the largest brain relative to body size of all known species of fish. This makes them surprisingly smart. They have developed areas for learning, problem solving and communication, creating the possibility for them to be self-aware.

These giant creatures are extremely curious and can be playful.

3. How fast can a manta ray swim?

Manta rays are generally slow moving creatures, but when they want to they can move at speeds of up to 24 kilometres (9 miles) per hour. This may not sound fast, but when you put this into perspective is around twice the speed of Michael Phelps fastest swim.

Michael Phelps’ Top Speed: “When he broke the world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2009 World Championships, Michael Phelps swam at an astonishingly speedy (or at least by human standards) 5.5 miles per hour. ESPN has put Phelps’ top swimming speed at 6 miles per hour.”

Biography – Michael Phelps

Mantas are even capable of reaching bursts of 35 kilometres (22 miles) per hour.

4. Do manta rays attack humans?

Manta rays don’t represent any threat to humans. This includes divers, snorkelers and swimmers, because as mentioned above they are gentle creatures.

But like any wild creature, if they are disturbed or threatened, they may attack to defend themselves. Therefore, observe, enjoy and don’t touch.

5. Has anyone died from a manta ray?

Unlike how Australian ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin who died as a result of being stabbed in the heart from a sting ray, manta rays are not known to have killed anyone. They don’t have stings like stingrays.

It was one of Steve’s cameramen who witnessed his death when a stingray stabbed at him many of times.

The venomous barb of a ray pierced Irwin’s heart in an incident authorities called a rare freak accident. Footage of the encounter at Batt Reef was recorded, and “it shows that Steve came over the top of the ray, and the tail came up and spiked him here [in the chest] and he pulled it out,” Irwin’s friend, director, and producer John Stainton said in a press conference at the time“…“And the next minute he’s gone. That was it. The cameraman had to shut down.

National Geographic – Rare Fatality Mirrors ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Death by Stingray

6. Is it safe to swim with manta rays?

On the basis that manta Rays are not dangerous, it’s totally safe to swim with them. As an example, I snorkelled with between 9-11 oceanic mantas with my daughter at Ningaloo Reef in Australia.

We were swimming on the surface and these mantas were barrel rolling just below us only a few feet away. At the time we swam with mantas, my daughter was just 13. If I thought they were dangerous, I would never have swam with them like this.

I have to say the experience was amazing! One I’d recommend to any animal lover, and I’d do it again in a shot!

7. Can you touch manta rays?

I always say it’s best to look and not touch most, if not all underwater creatures. The same goes for manta rays.

Whilst they are unlikely to harm you if you touch them, it’s possible you could harm them instead. With too much human touch, manta rays can develop various types of lesions or you could even transfer bacteria or disease.

Therefore: Look but don’t touch!

8. Do Manta Rays jump out of water?

If you’ve ever wondered whether manta rays jump out of the water like mobula rays, the answer is yes they do. I didn’t think they did until I watched this video shared on YouTube by the Manta Trust of a manta ray breaching the water.

This is one of the many things I love about what I do. I love to write, but I also love to learn and find out new things (although I think scuba diving I love even more!). Today I’ve learnt something new. I hope you have too.

9. Why do manta rays jump?

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why rays jump out of the water, which is mostly demonstrated by Mobula rays. However, as you’ll see from the above video, manta rays also jump out of the water too.

However, they think it may be to show off to potential mates. With nature the way it is, this is their way showing their strength and virility. The rays that leap the highest and make the biggest splash when they re-enter the water are the ones that stand out from the crowd. They get noticed from the sound of the splash. The bigger the splash and sound, the more they get noticed.

As rays land, this sends a huge boom through the water. The higher they jump, the bigger the bang. It is mostly males who jump like this, signalling their prowess to a potential mate. This draws attention to themselves.

Those rays that make the biggest impact on the female spectators give themselves the biggest odds of leaving with a mate.

Other thoughts are they jump out of the water to get rid of parasites or to communicate, this may be why females do also join in with the jumping out of the water too.

10. Can manta rays fly?

Whether you call jumping out of the water flying is debatable. But you could argue for those few seconds when a manta ray breaches the water, they are flying.

Manta rays have flat bodies and wide pectoral fins that are similar to wings, makes it easy for them to glide through the air.

11. What eats a manta ray?

The most likely animal to eat a manta ray is a shark. But killer whales are also known to eat them too. Among all the shark species, it’s more likely the to be the bull sharks and tiger sharks that are the manta eaters, as these are the larger shark species. Both these sharks are ferocious hunters. But also, they live in the same tropical and subtropical waters as manta rays do.

More Reading: Maldives liveaboard single cabin (Maldives diving as a single person)

Tiger sharks are known dustbins of the seas. They will eat almost anything. Which means that manta ray is likely to be on the menu with everything else.

More Reading: Where can you dive with tiger sharks (Best place to dive with tiger sharks)

12. Can you eat a manta ray?

Rays are edible and whilst they’re not on the menu in many countries, they are eaten by the Chinese. Manta rays probably doesn’t sound like the most appetising dish, but mantas are being over-fished, not for the whole manta, but for their gill plates.

This over-fishing and eating of manta rays is putting them onto the endangered species list.

  • Giant Manta Ray (Mobula birostris) – Red list “Vulnerable“.
  • Reef Manta Ray (Mobula alfredi) – Red list “Vulnerable“.

Due to the pollution of the seas, toxicology tests performed on manta gill plates sampled in Guangzhou found dangerous levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead and other heavy metals.

Human pollution may in a bizarre turn of events be helping WildAid change Chinese consumers’ minds about their eating habits. The toxicity of manta rays may bizarrely save their lives and encourage the Chinese to stop eating them.

150,000 is the number of manta and mobula rays killed each year for their gill plates. The city of Guangzhou, China is the market for an estimated 99% of gill plates.”

Wildaid – Targeted fishing for their gills is the biggest current threat to manta rays

13. How old are manta rays?

Depending on what you meant by this question, does depend on the answer. In this context I’ve taken it to mean how old is the species and when did it first arrive on the plant. However, if you actually meant “how long do mantas live“, please see the answer to this question below.

In terms of how long manta rays have live on the plant, it’s thought that manta rays and other members of the genus Mobula evolved around 20 million years ago.

But the current species of manta rays evolved about 5 million years ago. The type of rays that gave rise to manta rays were a benthic species.

14. What do you call a group of manta rays?

Manta rays are sometimes seen in large groups, just like I experienced on the Ningaloo Reef in Australia. They often form these groups when they are feeding, which can be as large as 50 at a time.

When they are in a group like this, they are then known as a squadron of manta rays. But some call them a school of mantas, as they are still fish after-all. However, there is also another know term for a group of manta rays, which is “A fever of manta“.

More Reading: Best budget diving liveaboard Labuan Bajo (10 cheap Liveaboards)

15. Why do Manta Rays have tails?

Manta rays, just like their sting ray cousins, have long whip like tails. But they don’t have a sting in their tails any more, which is unlike their cousins; the stingrays. The tail on a manta ray is an evolutionary remnant from a time they were sting rays, as this is what they evolved from. Therefore, you have nothing to worry about.

At the end of the tail of a manta ray is piece of cartilage instead. On a full grown adult manta ray this cartilage is roughly the size a fist.

16. How would you describe a manta ray?

The word “Manta” takes the meaning of blanket or cloak in Spanish. A manta ray could easily be described as looking like a blanket.

But to describe a manta ray, it would be a large flat diamond-shaped creature with huge triangular pectoral fins. They have two horn-shaped fins which protrude from the front of their heads. It is these protruding fins that has given them the nickname “devil fish.”

More Reading: The best budget diving liveaboard Thailand (6 Cheap Thailand liveaboards)

17. How do manta rays communicate?

As I’ve already explain above, manta rays are thought to be one of the smartest fish in the oceans. This is because they have the largest brain relative to their size. It is therefore thought that manta rays are able to communicate between each other in a more sophisticated way than other fish are able to do.

I’m hoping that like me, you’ll be amazed at the following paragraph taken from X-ray Mag:

Manta rays communicate in a complex language we are just about to understand, German scientists find. Soon we may even be able to communicate with them. In a startling new discovery, researchers have uncovered that groups of giant manta communicate intensely between themselves by means of what is deemed to be a language made up by highly coded electrical impulses.”

X-Ray Mag – Communication with manta rays “within grasp”

18. How do manta rays mate?

Manta rays are cartilaginous fish like sharks where the males have claspers, which are used for mating in the same way. During copulation the male manta aligns itself with the female, abdomen to abdomen. When aligned, the male inserts one of his claspers into the female’s cloaca.

During copulation male rays bite the pectoral fins of the females.

19. Do manta rays lay eggs?

Manta rays don’t lay eggs but instead give birth to live offspring similar to some shark species.

They reproduce by what’s called ovoviviparity. Where ovoviviparity (aplacental viviparity or no placental connection) is a type of reproduction in which the embryo develops inside an egg. But where the egg is retained within the mother’s body during development instead of being laid. The young mantas hatch inside the mother and only leave once they’ve hatched from the egg.

20. How do manta rays give birth?

As already explained in the previous manta ray fact, manta rays give birth to live young. Once the pups have developed inside the egg within the mother, they hatch out of the egg before emerging as a mini-manta ray from the female’s uterus.

21. Where do manta rays live?

Manta rays are a salt water fish species. They can be found in the warmer waters of our oceans in tropical oceans like the Maldives, which is in the Indian Ocean. But they are also found in subtropical and temperate oceans too.

More Reading: Where are the best liveaboard destinations in January (7 Top destinations)

So the bad news if you live in a place where the sea waters around your coast are cold is you’ll not see any mantas. But the good thing about this is you can visit some great warm places around the world instead. Where the sun shines and the seas are warm like a bath!

22. Where in the world can you swim with manta rays?

One of the places I’ve already mentioned where you can swim with manta rays is the Maldives. The Maldives has to be is one of the best countries in the world for swimming with manta rays.

More Reading: Scubaspa Yang liveaboard diving (Exceptional Maldives liveaboard)

If you are considering a visit to the Maldives, I suggest you look at Baa Atoll and Ari Atoll, which seem to be are the best locations for manta ray spotting.

One of my personal favourites is another place I’ve mentioned already, which is the Ningaloo Reef off the north west coast of Australia. But then Socorro Island is another manta ray hot spot, as is Thailand’s Similan Islands.

More Reading: Socorro Island Manta Rays (Socorro Island Liveaboard Diving and How to Get There)

23. Can a manta ray stab you?

You may be confusing manta rays with stingrays if you’ve asked this question. As already explained above, whilst manta rays have a long tail that’s similar to a stingray, they don’t have a stinging barb like they do.

Stingrays can get quite aggressive towards humans if provoked, as Steve Irwin found out to his detriment when his was killed by a stingray in 2006. However, manta rays are peaceful creatures that wouldn’t hurt anyone. Instead of hurting you, a manta ray would simply swim away if they felt threatened.

24. How deep can a manta ray dive?

On the whole manta rays live in shallow depths. They tend to be found between the depths of a few feet to 10 metres (33 feet), which is where they are found feeding on plankton.

However, giant manta rays have been known to dive to more than 1,000 metres (3,280 feet). Although in some research by the Dutch Shark Society, they recorded manta rays diving deeper at night to a depth of 432 metres (1,417 feet).

All tagged individuals performed dives exceeding 300 m in depth, with a maximum depth of 672 m. Most of the deepest dives occurred during nighttime, possibly to access important food resources. The authors hypothesize that these results may indicate zooplankton abundance in the surface waters surrounding New Caledonian coral reefs is insufficient to sustain reef manta rays.”

Science Daily – Reef manta rays in New Caledonia dive up to 672 meters deep at night

25. What does a manta ray tattoo mean?

To the indigenous Polynesian people the Manta ray is a symbol of Spirit Guardians that represents graceful strength and wisdom.

Due to the fact that manta rays are able to navigate the oceans, it is this that signifies to those with a manta ray tattoo that they will get to their destination if they keep moving forward. Meaning: to stay the course and be true to ourselves.

The manta ray tattoo is symbolic of getting what we want in life by directing our energy into the proper avenues. Because the manta ray uses its large body to round up plankton and direct them to swim in their mouths, we can take this as a symbol of them using their energy wisely and for purpose.”

Tattooseo – Manta Ray Tattoo Meaning

26. How do manta rays protect themselves?

Manta rays will avoid their predators and although the research points to their diving deeper at night to feed, this could also be as a way to avoid shark predation, as sharks feed at night.

Manta rays don’t have a way to defend themselves other than to swim away. Also, unlike their cousins the stingray that have a poisonous sting in the tail, mantas don’t have this weapon as a form of defence either.

Equally manta rays don’t have sharp teeth either, as they are plankton feeders. This is why they are capable of short bursts of speed to quickly to flee being eaten.

27. How many manta rays are there?

Manta rays are part of the genus Mobula. Specifically to mantas, there are two species, which are giant manta rays (Manta birostris) and reef manta rays (Manta alfredi). As describe in it’s name, the giant manta ray is the larger of the two species.

28. How big is a manta ray?

Out of all the rays found in the oceans around the world, it is the manta ray that are the largest. The giant oceanic manta ray can measure more than 8 metres (26 feet) across. To put this in perspective:

  • The UK’s AEC Routemaster double decker bus measured 8.38 metres (27.5 feet).
  • An adult giraffe is only 6 metres (19.7 feet) tall.
  • The height of a standard two storey house in the UK up to gutter height is roughly 5.8 metres (19 feet).

Manta rays that grow to these sizes can weigh more than 1,600 kg (3,527 lbs), which is a very large fish! But not as big as the whale shark, which is the largest fish in the ocean.

So when you read the next interesting fact about manta rays, you may be blown away!

More Reading: Best Place To Scuba Dive With Whale Sharks (The Biggest Fish In The Oceans)

29. What is the largest manta ray ever recorded?

According to the Guinness World Records, the largest manta ray wingspan ever recorded is 9.1 metres (30 feet). Putting this huge creature’s size into persepctive:

  • The length of an average car is 4.5 metres (14.8 feet) long.
  • An elephant can grow to around 6.5 metres (21 feet) in length.
  • The average British garden is 15 metres (49 feet) long.

30. Do manta rays have bones?

Manta rays are cartilaginous fish, which means they have a skeleton made from cartilage instead of bone. Rays are closely related to sharks, swordfish and skates, which also have cartilage for a skeleton and are collectively known as elasmobranchs.

31. Can Manta Rays see and do they have eyes?

Manta rays can see as they have a pair of eyes like money creatures on the planet.

32. Where are a manta rays eyes?

A giant manta’s eyes are located at the base of the cephalic fins or lobes, which are used for feeding and for directing food into their mouth. The cephalic lobes are horn-like and are on each side of the head.

33. What are baby manta rays called?

As already explained above, female manta rays give birth to one or two live baby rays per litter. Each one of their young can weigh up to 11kg (25lbs) at birth! These baby manta rays are called “pups“.

34. How long do manta rays live?

No one really knows how long manta rays live for. But based on the known lifespans of closely related rays, and according to Elasmo Research, it is thought that mantas may live up to 25 years or so.

35. What do manta rays eat?

Manta rays eat tiny marine organisms including microscopic plankton, small fish and crustaceans. Mantas are not like many sharks species as they don’t have teeth. But they are more like whale sharks and basking sharks.

Instead of using teeth to eat, manta rays sieve their food using rows of tiny plates in their mouths. They use their cephalic fins or lobes to funnel the food into their mouths as they swim.

36. Do dolphins eat manta rays?

It is not known if dolphins eat manta rays. However, killer whales or orcas are known to eat them, which are a part of the dolphin family (Delphinidae).

Orcas, or killer whales, have been documented preying on manta rays in the Galapagos Islands as well as New Guinea. In the Galapagos, mantas appear to be a common food item for these formidable cetaceans.”

Sciencing – Which Animals Eat Manta Rays?

More Reading: The best luxury dive liveaboard Galapagos (Dive in Luxury & Comfort)

37. How many gill clefts do manta rays have?

Like other members of the elasmobranchii fish, manta rays have five pairs of gill clefts.

38. Do manta rays have swim bladders?

As members of the elasmobranchii subclass, manta rays don’t have swim bladders. A swim bladder, also known as a gas bladder, fish maw, or air bladder is an internal gas-filled organ. In bony fish the swim bladder contributes to the ability to control their buoyancy. This is not too dismiliar to a scuba diver’s buoyancy control device.

Bony fish are able to stay at their current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming. Whereas manta rays have to swim constantly to stay at a chosen depth.

39. Do manta rays have to swim continuously?

Like most shark species and other members of the elasmobranchii subclass of fish, manta rays must swim continuously to keep oxygenated water passing over their gills. This is unlike most bony fish, which are able to pump water over their gills by pumping their Operculum (or gill cover) instead.

40. Do manta rays sleep?

As manta rays have to swim constantly in order for water to pass over their gills, it’s difficult to know whether manta rays sleep or not. There’s a possibility that they partially sleep like dolphins. Dolphins are known to shut down one part or one side of their brain.

Sleep is characterised by a change in brainwaves and can be recorded as such. This has been tested and researched with dolphins, which are of course mammals. However, these same experiments have not been performed on manta rays in the same way to find out.

41. Can manta rays close their mouths?

Manta rays feed on a diet of plankton which is done with their mouth agape. But also, as mantas have to swim continuously to keep the flow of oxygenated water over their gills, they don’t need to close their mouths.

Manta rays can close their mouths, which can be see from this video of mantas in the Maldives dived from the MV Blue Voyager liveaboard (p.s. I’ve started the video at a point where you’ll see the manta ray closes it’s mouth a couple of times:

42. Why do fish swim under manta rays?

Firstly, the first that swim under manta rays or that are attached to their underside are Remora fish. Remoras are often called ‘Sucker Fish‘ and can grow to as long as 110cm (43 inches) in length.

Remora fish have a modified dorsal fin in the form of a sucker. This sucker organ has slat-like structures that can open and close to create suction and therefore allows them to take hold of the underside of mantas.

Why these fish swim under manta rays is for a couple of reasons. The first is they use the large size of the manta ray as a form of protection against predators. The second reason is they feed on ectoparasites and flaky skin on the manta rays, thereby providing a service in a symbiotic type relationship. But remoras are also known to feed on their ‘hosts‘ faeces too.

I hope you enjoyed this article about 40+ interesting facts about manta rays

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof go-pro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about 40+ interesting facts about manta rays), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkeling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.

Have fun and be safe!

40+ interesting facts about manta rays (Oceanic giants of the seas)

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