Manta rays, which are extremely intelligent and threatened, are the largest rays in the world.
For many years, scientists believed there was only one species of manta ray. In 2008, researchers discovered that there were actually two distinct species which include the reef manta ray, which tends to live along the coastlines of the Indo-Pacific, and the gigantic oceanic manta ray that lives in all of the major oceans around the globe and spends the majority of its time away from land.
While the smaller reef manta has an impressive wingspan that is about 11 feet wide the massive oceanic manta ray, the largest species of ray–can boast a wingspan that can reach 29 feet.
Habitat and food
Giant manta rays live alone or in small groups, generally, they gather to feed. They’re considered predators as they hunt beneath the surface of the sea.
Mantas rays make regular visits to cleaning stations, spots in coral reefs where sea animals go to receive a clean-up by the smaller creatures–where they are able to remain for several minutes while cleaner fish remove parasites and dead skin. Mantas rays are known to return to the same locations repeatedly.
Mantas rays have the greatest brain-to-size ratio of any cold-blooded fish. Research has shown that manta rays may recognize themselves in mirrors, an ability indicative that they have high cognitive functions, also shown by dolphins, primates, as well as elephants.
Studies have also revealed that rays are able to build mentally mapped maps of their surroundings through visual and smell signals, which indicate a highly developed long-term memory.
Mantas rays reach sexual maturity when they are between 8 and 10 years old. They typically give birth every few years, usually to one pup, or, occasionally, two. The gestation period lasts from 12 to 13 months. Mantas rays have live puppies. Babies look like smaller versions of adult mantas rays after they are they are born. They can survive without parental care.
Manta Rays are believed to live for 50 years.