-How many species of manta ray are there?
Until 2009 they were considered a single species, but at present they are recognized as 2: reef manta (Manta alfredi) and the giant manta ray (Manta birostris).
-Are manta ray fish?
Yes. They belong to the group of chondrichthyans, fish with skeleton made of cartilage rather than bone. In addition, they breathe through gills.
-What do they eat?
Manta rays are planktivores. This means they feed on plankton, tiny aquatic creatures. They introduce water in their mouth and it is filtered by the gill rakers of their gills.
-Where do they live?
They are widely distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans and to a lesser extent in the Atlantic. Often they are found in reefs around groups of islands and atolls.
-How do they breathe?
They have gills by absorbing oxygen dissolved in the water, like all other fish.
-Do manta rays “sting”?
No, because they lack a poisonous sting in the tail.
– Are they dangerous to humans?
They are not. If a human being is near them they don’t try to attack. Of course, if disturbed they can react and attack, like any wild animal.
– What is the largest species of manta ray?
It is the giant manta ray, which can grow to nine meters wide.
-How do they reproduce?
Manta rays are ovoviviparous, i.e., the male fertilizes the female transferring its sperm through the female’s cloaca. The hatching occurs within the body and then the young are born alive and independent.
These fish have a low birth rate because each female is usually 1 offspring and rarely have 2.
-How much do they weigh?
The maximum weight is that of the giant manta ray that reaches up to 1,350 kilograms, but can occasionally exceed this figure.
– What are its main threats?
Fishing, whether directed or incidental. Today its population continues to decline due to overfishing in some regions of the world such as the Philippines and western Mexico.
– How old do they live?
Scientists believe they are long-lived species that live at least 40 years.
-What are the “horns” they have in their head used for?
These structures are called cephalic lobes or ridges, and remain coiled when manta rays are swimming. But if it’s time to eat, they stretch and help push the water into the mouth so that the food is introduced.
-What are their predators?
Given their size, they have very few natural predators. The only animals that can attack them are large sharks, killer whales and false killer whales (false killer whale). But if it comes down to predators, there is no doubt that humans are the most dangerous.
-Are manta rays endangered?
Not for the moment. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them in the “vulnerable” category, but if fishing continues at unsustainable levels they are likely to join the group of endangered species.