A Filter Feeding Giant: The Manta

Manta birostris

The Manta Ray is the largest of all rays. This giant elasmobranch lives exclusively as a filter-feeder. Primarily small planktonic crustaceans are sieved through five pairs of gills located on the underside of the animal. Two cephalic lobes help funnel water into its mouth. These two lobes are also responsible for the animal’s infamous nickname, “devil ray,” because they  resemble two diabolic horns.

The ventral side (underside) is usually bright-colored with individual spot patterns making it possible to tell individuals apart. The dorsal side (back/upper side) is normally dark-colored. This counter-coloration provides good camouflage for the animal. The bright belly blends with the bright surface when looked upon from underneath and the dark back blends well with the darkness of the deep water when seen from above.

Manta rays are found around the world in tropical waters.

Interesting Manta Facts

  • Mantas can grow over seven meters in width. The largest was 7.6 meters!
  • Other names for the Manta Ray include Atlantic mantaPacific mantadevilfish, and just manta.
  • Only four manta rays exist in captivity today!
  • One of the first films to feature the Manta Ray misrepresented it as a fearsome creature.  The name of the film was The Sea Bat, a 1930s thriller directed by Lionel Barrymore and Wesley Ruggles.

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Written by Jonas Stenstrom

Jonas is one of the co-founders and lead producers of Untamed Science. He has a background as a marine biologist and science communicator. Jonas has spent several years travelling and documenting nature around the world. He is also the director for the Untamed Science Europe branch and international projects.

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