The name “manta” is Spanish for cloak or blanket, a type of blanket-shaped trap traditionally used to catch rays. Over the past 6 weeks I have been blessed and privileged beyond all imagination whilst staying at the Guinjata Dive Center. Certainly Manta reef has been good to me providing some gorgeous manta filled dives for which I will be ever-thankful.
Giant mantas, Manta birostris (Walbaum, 1792), aka Atlantic mantas, devil rays, mantas and Pacific manta rays, are the largest of the rays and are closely related to sharks. These harmless, majestic creatures have short tails and no stinging spines. They are very acrobatic and are able to leap high from the water. Remoras (Echeneida sp.) are frequently seen with mantas near their mouths and even inside their gill cavities, hanging out to feed on parasites on the manta’s body and lost bits of the manta’s food.2. Like most reef fishes, mantas regularly attend cleaning stations where certain species of fishes pick parasites from their hovering bodies.
With thanks to Ned and AnnaDeLoach here are 5 interesting facts about Manta Rays:
1. Mantas give birth every other year to a single pup, or a pair of four-foot pups that arrive rolled up like burritos.
2. It is not known why mantas leap from the water. Theories abound: to impress females, to help control parasites, to escape predators, or as a means of intraspecific communication.
3. Mantas can grow to nearly 6 meters from wingtip to wingtip, live for a quarter century, and will consume about 60 pounds of plankton and small fish each day by filter feeding.
4. Currently only two species of mantas have been scientifically described, although a third, similar-appearing species inhabiting the Caribbean and Atlantic is suspected.
5. Although useless and nonfunctioning, a manta has approximately 300 rows of skin-covered teeth in its lower jaw.
Both species are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and direct harvesting for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats. They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore.
Certainly there is some cause for concern for the Mantas here in Mozambique. As the Chinese influence grows here so does the demand. If you are interested to find out more about this then please visit this link and try to get involved in your closest ocean conservation society. The oceans need us all to pull together. https://www.sharksavers.org/en/our-programs/manta-ray-of-hope/learn-more/the-gill-raker-myth/