10 Fun Facts about Manta Rays

Apr 24, 2023 | About Manta Rays

Manta Rays are majestic animals that inspire awe and a deep sense of connection in anyone who meets them.

But did you know they can also be pretty quirky at times?

Here are ten fun facts about the gentle giants of the sea!

Fun Fact #1: Manta Rays Poop and Vomit. All. The. Time.

What goes in, must come out; and since manta rays don’t technically stop eating (ever), they constantly produce their own food waste.

No worries, their waste gets recycled continuously as well; manta ray vomit is a treat for surrounding fish!

Read more about how manta rays eliminate waste and watch the video on this page!

Fun Fact #2: Manta Rays Can Fly

Unlike the Flying Dutchman (the legendary ghost ship), the flying manta ray is not a myth: manta rays are known to jump out of the water.

This phenomenon is called breaching, and seeing a manta ray fly out of the water in real life is as impressive as it sounds!

The question of why manta rays jump out of the water is one of the many mysteries we don’t yet have an answer for; different scientists and manta ray experts have different explanations for it, and we’re not close to finding the one single answer.

→ Watch the videos of manta rays breaching + read why experts think they do it here

Fun Fact #3: Manta Rays are Bigger than your Average Car

The largest manta ray ever recorded was 22 feet (7 meters) wide; reef mantas are slightly smaller, measuring 12-14 feet (3-5 meters) on average.

So while a big reef manta is about as large as your average car (a little over 14 feet), the wingspan of the biggest manta ray ever is still larger than the biggest production car ever built.

→ Get more facts and figures about manta rays – download the free ebook here

Fun Fact #4: Manta Rays Eat 12 Times their Body Weight

A couple of years ago, I calculated how much plankton mantas consume, which came down to 19,200,000 pieces of plankton every week for an average adult manta ray. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Manta rays eat about 12% of their body weight worth of plankton every single day. That’s almost as much as baleen whales!

Until 2021, we even thought manta rays ate more than whales – but new studies proved that baleen whales eat a lot more than we thought.

Read more about what manta rays eat (and check my calculations!) on this page
→ Not sure it’s a good thing that the giants of the sea eat this much? This article highlights the importance of their poop for the ecosystem!

Fun Fact #5: Manta Rays are Fish, not Mammals

Manta rays give birth to live pups, so they must be mammals like whales and dolphins, right?

Wrong!

Manta rays are ovoviviparous. This means they are fish that produce eggs… which they then proceed to hatch inside their body.

They will carry their pup inside their body for over a year before giving birth. Not quite as long as an elephant, but wait until you hear how their babies come out…

Read more about manta ray reproduction on this page!

Fun Fact #6: Manta Rays are Born as Burrito Wraps

On that same note… while manta rays give birth to live pups, those pups are huge – and there’s no room for them to flap their wings inside the mother’s body.

That’s why a manta ray baby comes out of their mother all wrapped up, and looking a lot like a burrito wrap.

As soon as they are born, they unfold and immediately look like a miniature manta… although it takes several months for the birth wrinkles to stretch out and fade.

See the amazing pictures of a manta ray pup being born here
→ Follow the evolution of Kamala Ray from manta ray toddler to teenager on this page

Fun Fact #7: Manta Rays (Accidentally) Travel with Sea Urchins

When we’re on a manta ray moonlight swim, we sometimes encounter mantas with a black spiny sea urchin sticking out of their body – stuck on their cephalic fins or on their ventral side.

It’s likely they attract these unwanted passengers when they get too close to the reef… it seems mantas can be clumsy.

These unwanted passengers can damage the manta rays’ protective coating – and at the same time, that protective coating can help them repair the damage.

This protective coating can also be damaged by simple human touch; this is why it’s extremely important to never pet or touch a manta ray!

Read more about how manta rays get hurt (and why you should never touch them) on this page

Fun Fact #8: Manta Rays can Easily Swallow a Small Child (but they won’t)

We already established that manta rays eat a ridiculously large amount of plankton every single day. They do that by swimming with their mouths open and moving the nutrient-rich seawater through their gills.

When you look into a manta ray’s big, cavernous mouth, it’s easy to imagine them swallowing a child! However, manta rays are intelligent, and they very well know little humans are not a suitable source of food – their metabolism just couldn’t take it.

On top of that, they are gentle and peace-loving animals that don’t even have a proper defense mechanism against predators.

Read more about how manta rays defend themselves on this page
Read more about the manta ray’s filter-feeding technique on this page

Fun Fact #9: Manta Rays have Big Brains

Manta rays have the largest brain-to-body ratio in the family of sharks, rays, and skates.

Fun Fact #10: All Manta Rays are Giants, but Not All Manta Rays are Giant Manta Rays

Manta rays are never small. They may only measure 2-3 feet when they are born, but mature manta rays have a wingspan of over 10 feet (3 meters).

However, many articles on the internet are slightly mistaken about the species of manta rays.

The “giant” manta ray (mobula birostris, also called pelagic manta or oceanic manta ray) is the larger type of manta, but sightings are rare; it lives deep in the ocean and only gets spotted occasionally.

So when you go on a snorkeling or scuba diving adventure with manta rays, this will not be with giant manta rays; you will be encountering their smaller (but not less impressive) cousin, the reef manta ray (mobula alfredi).

Read more about the difference between giant manta rays and reef mantas on this page
Learn more about our moonlight swim experience with (reef) manta rays on this page

More Fun Facts and Figures about Manta Rays?

Learned lots? Keen to learn more?

Download the free ebook, Manta Ray Facts & Figures, below!

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