~ The Manta Ray ~
The manta ray is the largest of rays. These graceful and beautiful creatures are also closely related to sharks. These rays are known as "devilfish" in some areas of the world and belong to the family mobulidae.
The manta has a short tail and no stinging spine and is harmless to people and usually indifferent to divers. Remoras, which are known to attach themselves to sharks, also are frequently seen with mantas, staying near the manta's mouth and even inside the gill cavities. The remoras feed on parasites found on the manta's body and eat bits of the manta's food.
These rays are very graceful swimmers and are very acrobatic. They have even been known to leap from the water. They swim by moving their pectoral fins up and down like a bird flapping its wings.
The manta can grow to 30 feet wide, but they tend to average about 22 feet wide. The largest of mantas weigh in at about 3,000 pounds. Mantas are dark brown to black on top with slightly lighter edges. Mantas are mostly white underneath.
Mantas eat microscopic plankton, small fish, and tiny crustaceans just like basking sharks do. Mantas have no teeth. They funnel their food into their mouth while they swim, using two large, flap-like cephalic lobes which extend forward from the eyes.
Mantas live close to shore and in open tropical seas. Mantas are solitary creatures. These rays are common and are found worldwide.
Mantas reproduce via ovoviviparity (this is when animals hatch from eggs, but the eggs hatch and the babies develop inside the female's body; there is no placenta to nourish the pups). One or two pups are born to a female. Mantas are born about 45 inches wide and weigh about twenty pounds and they grow very quickly. The life span of the manta is unknown.