Introduction to Giant Manta Ray
As you can guess from the name, the Giant Manta Ray is considerably large in size. They are dark in color so that they blend in well with their surroundings. They also feature a variety of colorations on the belly that helps to differentiate them from each other. The researchers often use these markings to help with identifying individuals.
Giant Manta Ray Description
The body of the manta ray is very flat and well spread out. They have a disc body that also features pectoral wings that they spread out. They have a dorsal fin that is small in size. Two cephalic lobes are offered in front of the head and allow them to consume food. They have a large mouth and they are both filter and bottom feeders. They do have teeth in the lower jaw, but they don’t chew their food.
Instead, they have gills under the body that makes sure nothing too large is passed to the stomach for digestion.
The eyes are very large and they are on the side of the body. This allows them to see a great deal of what is around them. They also have a very large mouth in the front of the body that enables them to take in large amounts of water and food. They don’t have any bones, instead they have cartilage. They do have a tail but no spine. They body is very rough, with a feeling that is similar to that of sand paper.
Giant Manta Ray Distribution
The Giant Manta Rays live in both tropical and sub-tropical waters. They are found along the coastal areas of the oceans around the world. They are also found along the coasts of Brazil, California, Peru, Africa, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are found living both at the surface of the water and along the bottom of it. Such a wide distribution and the fact that they migrate makes it difficult to get a good count on how many of them there are in the wild.
When the water is warmer, they will live closer to the shore. When the water is cooler, they will move to the deeper areas of the water. They will also take into consideration where they can find enough food. Finding that balance is part of why they live a migrational lifestyle. Due to environmental changes, they have been seen in small numbers in locations that they were never found before. It is just one more way that they amaze researchers that keep an eye on where they are distributed. No manta rays seem to do well in captivity so protecting the natural environment is very important.
Giant Manta Ray Behavior
The Giant Manta Ray is a very good swimmer, and when they move at top speeds they seem to be flying through the water. They tend to move at slower speeds though for eating and for playing. They may be seen rolling around in the sediment, leaping out of the water to remove parasites and to attract mates, and occasionally being social and mimicking the behaviors of each other.
They aren’t territorial and there isn’t a hierarchy among them. When you see a large group of these manta rays in a given area, it is due to water temperatures and the opportunity to feed. Most of the time they will simply be ignoring each other. They will also ignore people around them unless they are in danger or provoked. They aren’t harmful though like the sting ray.
Giant Manta Ray Feeding
They will take the opportunity to feed when they can, with the ability for adults to consume up to 66 pounds of food daily. They tend to feed mainly at night to take advantage of the plankton that will be on top of the water. However, they may also feed during the day at the bottom of the water where the sediment is found. They also consume small fish, crustaceans, and shrimp.
They continually have to move, which is why they may roll at the bottom of the water to stir up the food sources. They may go in circles around a school of fish to get them to tighten up into a ball. Then they are able to successfully take in a large portion of it at once.
Giant Manta Ray Reproduction
Mating can occur any time of the year for the Giant Manta Ray. They will do so when they have enough food and the water is a decent temperature for them. If they experience too much stress, the water is too cold, or they are struggling to find food then they will naturally stop mating for a period of time. The full moon could be a trigger with good conditions that encourage them to take part in mating.
While the males are the ones that go after the females for mating, she has the ultimate say on it. The overall span of the pectoral fins is what determines when they are mature enough to mate. For the females it is about 3 years old and for the males it is about 5 years old. Females only mate every other year, and that makes increasing populations hard. It is possible that the year off enables her body to recuperate enough to do well with a pup the following year.
The males will go after the females in pursuit for at least 30 minutes, and if she is interested she will copy the movements of the male she would like to mate with. After successfully mating, the female will flee and the egg will create a pup in her body. It will take about 1 year for it to be born.
When it is time for the pup to be born, she will move very close to the shoreline. The pup is about 20 pounds in size at birth, and will be left alone immediately after birth. Many of them will be consumed by predators there. Those that survive will consume plankton for about 1 year before they venture further into the waters for other food sources.