10 amazing facts about manta rays

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1. Blanket

Manta Ray and Scuba Diver

The word manta is Spanish for ‘blanket’ and I’m sure you can see why it got this name.

2. Batman

Manta Ray Feeding

In contrast to other stingrays who prefer digging through sandy sea bottom, manta rays cruise the open oceans and only get close to the sea bed to get cleaned.

3. Interactive Minds

Manta Ray and Diver

Manta rays have the largest brain to body weight ratio of any living fish giving it enough smarts to make the average dolphin jealous.

4. Spots

Manta Ray Swimming

Like leopard sharks, manta rays can be individually identified by the spots on the underside of their bodies.

5. Scoopers

Manta Ray from below

While similar, the manta ray and the devil ray are actually two different species. The main point of difference is devil rays have pointier wings and horn-like cephalic fins compared to the manta’s round labrador ear-looking plankton scoopers.

6. Burrito

Manta Ray in Blue

Mantas pop out little manta pups every other year, conveniently rolled up like little burritos. However, the relatively slow reproduction rate makes them vulnerable to overfishing.

7. Flight control

Manta Ray near surface

Manta rays are sometimes seen leaping out of the water like flying pizzas. The reasons for this behaviour is still a mystery to scientists, but some theories have attributed the behaviour to mating rituals, communication and removal of parasites.

8. Size

Manta Ray underwater

A fully grown oceanic manta ray can reach a wing span of up to 7 metres and weigh up to two tonnes while its smaller reef cousin grows to 4.5 metres and weigh a measly 1.5 tonnes.

9. Harmless

Manta Ray Eating

Despite its size, manta rays are completely harmless to humans with a non-functioning tail spine and 300 useless little teeth. Being filter feeders, the standard diet consists of crustaceans, plankton and small fish.

10. Manta Train

Manta Rays around rocks

Manta Rays can be seen in numbers all along the Australian East coast. Osprey Reef, Heron Island and Lady Musgrave Island offers manta sightings regularly throughout the year and North Stradbroke Island in the south east sees mantas passing through during the warmer summer months. The closest you’ll get to a guaranteed sighting is Lady Elliot Island during winter when these giants congregate in the hundreds.

Have you snorkelled or dived with a Manta Ray before? Share your photos in the comments!




  • LesM

    I’m sorry, but it drives me crazy when journalists don’t understand the use of apostrophes in English. Under item 8 “it’s smaller reef cousin” should, of course, be “its smaller reef cousin”. Possessive pronouns such as “his”, “hers”, “ours”, “yours” and “its” do NOT have apostrophes. “It’s” (with an apostrophe) can only be used as a short form of “it is”.

    • Hey LesM, we feel your pain! Thank you for picking up that lil’ mistake for us. It has been swiftly eliminated. Have a great day!