The Size of Manta Rays

Have you ever imagined exploring the depths of the world’s oceans? For true adventurers, the vastness of Earth can be quite overwhelming. How can one possibly witness all that the Earth’s surface has to offer?

Considering that approximately 70% of the Earth is covered by water, it becomes clear that the uncharted depths of the seas are an extensive frontier with countless mysteries waiting to be uncovered. Will you be the one to take the plunge and discover what lies beneath the surface?

Picture yourself diving off the coast of a tropical island. As you swim past a coral reef, your eyes are captivated by the vibrant colors of the fish. Suddenly, darkness engulfs you as a shadow looms overhead. Looking up, you witness an enormous marine creature floating above you.

It is the sea creature you have been longing to see: a massive manta ray. Also known as a giant devil ray or an Atlantic manta, the scientific name for this colossal creature is Manta birostris.

Manta rays have a flat and wide body, with triangular pectoral fins that resemble wings. When fully extended, these wings can span over 20 feet in width. Some reports even claim the existence of manta rays as large as 30 feet across.

Additionally, manta rays possess cephalic fins at the front of their heads. These fins resemble devil’s horns and are used to guide food, such as plankton and small fish, into the manta ray’s mouth.

Often found near the water’s surface in warm waters near islands or continents, manta rays appear to be flying through the water rather than swimming due to their large flapping fins and whip-like tails. Occasionally, they will even leap out of the water as a form of play or communication.

If you come across a manta ray while diving, don’t be surprised if it approaches you. Manta rays are not harmful to humans. In fact, they are curious creatures that seem to welcome interaction with humans.

This friendly behavior may be attributed to their high level of intelligence. Scientists have confirmed that manta rays possess the largest brains among all fish species, granting them enhanced abilities for learning, problem-solving, and communication. Some experts even believe that manta rays may possess self-awareness, a rare trait in the animal kingdom, as they have shown signs of recognizing themselves in mirrors.

Unfortunately, the global population of manta rays has been dwindling in recent decades. This decline is largely due to the hunting of manta rays for their gill rakers, which are highly valued in Chinese medicine as they are made of cartilage. Fishermen in countries like Sri Lanka and India have been particularly responsible for this decline.

Give It a Try

Are you ready to swim with manta rays? Engage in the following activities with a friend or family member:

Swimming with Manta Rays

If you were given the opportunity to swim with a manta ray, would you take it? Imagine marking out an area on the ground that measures approximately 10 feet by 22 feet. Now, lay down within the marked outline to get an idea of the size of a manta ray. How would you feel if a manta ray approached you in the wild? What are your reasons for feeling scared or not?

Head over to the Manta Ray Advocates’ Video Gallery online and explore the collection of videos showcasing these magnificent creatures. While watching the videos, make note of at least five interesting facts about giant manta rays. Share your newfound knowledge with a friend or family member.

Feeling a surge of creativity? Download and print the Manta Ray Coloring Page from the internet. Utilize crayons or colored pencils to adorn your own unique manta ray masterpiece. And don’t forget to give your creation a special name upon completion. We chose to name ours “Ray!”

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.britannica.com/animal/manta-ray
  • http://oceana.org/blog/manta-ray-brainpower-blows-other-fish-out-water-10
  • https://www.arkive.org/giant-manta-ray/manta-birostris/

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