MANTAS

AT A GLANCE

Manta’s are cartilaginous fishes, meaning they are close relatives of sharks and other rays.

 

Being fish, they don’t breathe air, but instead they have gills allowing them to respire underwater. To breathe they must continually keep water flowing over their gills.

Despite their misleading size, manta rays feed on some of the smallest organisms in the sea! They are planktivores, feeding on the plankton that is found in the water column.

CARIBBEAN SPECIES

Caribbean Manta Ray

Mobula cf. birostris

Throughout the reef habitats of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico there occurs a proposed third species of manta ray that is sympatric to the ocean manta ray in this region. This putative species ¨Caribbean Manta Ray Mobula cf. birostris¨ appears to occupy a similar niche to the Reef Manta Ray. It may well therefore be that some of the pioneering Oceanic Manta Ray that crossed the open ocean to the Caribbean found plentiful sources of food along the inshore reefs and began to diverge into a new species- essentially, nature replicating the evolution of Reef Manta Ray again. However, although recent genetic analysis supports a degree of separation between these two groups, these remains uncertainly on the validity of this proposed speciation.

 

The putative Caribbean Manta Ray is smaller than its oceanic cousin and more similar in size to the Reef Manta Ray. The coloration dorsally is a cross between de reef and oceanic mantas. Unlike in Oceanic Manta Rays, where the black T-shaped head marking extends down through the back to join the rest of the black-coloured body, maintaining a roughly even width throughout, in the Caribbean Manta the lower tail of the T tapers together towards the bottom where it joins the back.

 

Disc width: maximum 5 meters (16.5 ft)

Average: 3-4 meters

Weight: up to 1 ton

Age of maturity: Similar to Reef and Oceanic Mantas

Distribution: Found throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, its range possibly extending further throughout the Atlantic Ocean

Age Maturity: unknown, but likely to be similar to Reef and Oceanic Manta Ray.

Lifespan: likely to be around 40 years 

IUCN RED LIST: VULNERABLE

Mexico protection: NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 under the category of Special Protection.

FAO species code: RMB

ANATOMY

LOCATION

Mantas are found all over the world; however some important differences in range and habitat exist between the oceanic and the reef mantas. All species live pelagic lives in the open ocean, visiting reefs to feed and cleaning stations to be cleaned and to be social.


Although all 3 species of manta ray have been sighted in the Mexican Caribbean, it is mostly mobula cf. birostris that is sighted feeding in the area.

 

SPECIES WORLDWIDE

Oceanic Manta Ray

Mobula birostris

The Oceanic Manta Ray is the largest ray species in the world, growing to a much larger size than its reef relative, with a disc width up to 700 cm (ft 23) in extremely large specimens, although the average size for most individuals encountered is usually around 4-5 meters. 

Oceanic Manta Ray appear to spend much of their time in the open ocean away from reefs, diving hundreds of meters into the deep scattering layer to find their zooplankton prey.

For specific information about their location and sightings please visit the Manta Trust hotspots page.

Disc width: maximum 7 meters

Average: 4-5 meters

Weight: up to 2 tons

Age of maturity: Similar to Reef Mantas

Distribution: Found circumtropical in all oceans to 40 N (New Jersey, USA, and Honshu, Japan) and 40 S (northern Tasmania, Australia).

Age Maturity: unknown, but likely to be similar to Reef Manta Ray.

Lifespan: likely to be around 40 years 

IUCN RED LIST: VULNERABLE

FAO species code: RMB

Mexico protection: NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 under the category of Special Protection.

Reef Manta Ray

Mobula alfredi

Reef mantas frequent the relatively shallow waters along the coastal reefs of continents and oceanic islands, these smaller mantas are highly social and often resident to a specific home range, migrating around these areas as they follow changes in the seasonal abundance of their planktonic food source.

Reef mantas spend much of their time visiting cleaning stations on coral reefs, allowing small fishes to scour every surface of their bodies for morsels of food. These cleaner fish are looking for parasites lodged in the mantas mouth´s, gills, and on their skin. These cleaning stations play a key role in the lives of the mantas, acting as important social gathering points.

Disc width: maximum 4.50 meters (15 ft)

Average: 3-3.5 meters

Weight: up to 700 kg

Age at maturity: Females 15 years and Males 10 years

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific, to 32 N (Shikoku, Japan and Red Sea, Egypt) and 30 S (Margarete, South Africa and New South Wales, Australia). 

Age Maturity: unknown, but likely to be similar to Reef Manta Ray.

Lifespan: likely to be around 40 years 

IUCN RED LIST: VULNERABLE

FAO species code: RMA

LIFE CYCLE AND THREATS

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Mexican Caribbean Manta Ray Project

Isla Mujeres 77400 Quintana Roo, Mexico 

© 2019 Mexican Caribbean Manta Ray Project