The Difference Between Eagle Rays, Stingrays and Manta Rays

by | Jun 29, 2020 | About Manta Rays

Many people think they’ve seen a manta ray – while in reality, they spotted a different animal. There are so many different types of rays in the ocean!

When you come to Hawaii, there is a good chance that you would see a spotted eagle ray and sometimes even a stingray – although these are quite rare. Along the coastline, you will mainly see the graceful reef mantas.

There are a lot of differences between these three types of rays – like their diet, their size, and how they look. Let’s dive into that in the following article!

Note: I have also recorded a video about this topic with very descriptive footage. If you would prefer to look & listen, click play to watch the video. Once you see all three types of rays it will be easy to distinguish between them but if you prefer reading, read on below! 

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted eagle rays are easily identified by the white spots on the dorsal side.

Their size, from fin tip to fin is 6-8 feet / 2-3 m

They are found in shallow coastal waters and in warm and temperate oceans worldwide, where they feed on small fish and crustaceans digging with their snout through the sandy rubble.

For defense, they have venomous barbed stingers behind the pelvic fins, located by the tail.

These guys are really shy and get spooked easily.

Underwater photograph of a spotted eagle ray in the ocean
Spotted eagle ray

Hawaiian Stingray

Stingrays are rarely seen in the ocean around Hawaii as they live at a depth of 50+ feet /17+m.

The Hawaiian Stingray is native to Hawaii and can grow to a wingspan of 3 feet (1m).

Hawaiian stingrays lay half-buried in the sea bed when resting and they are masters of camouflage. Their mouth is located underneath the body and their diet consists of both invertebrates and bony fish.

For defense, they have a stinging spine near the tail base.

Underwater image of a stingray taken by Kris Mikael Krister
Stingrays – master of camouflage

Manta Ray

The reef manta is the largest of the three ocean rays. Mature females can reach a ginormous 12-14 feet / 4-5m wingspan.

They are found among coral reefs, in temperate to tropical waters worldwide.

Reef mantas have no stinger, teeth or barb, their only defense is flight.

Manta rays filter-feed on plankton with a complex system of brachial filters.

Underwater photography of a reef manta ray
Reef manta

Creatures of Perpetual Motion: Swimming to Stay Alive

Mantas and spotted eagle rays never stop swimming, unlike the stingray who can rest on the ocean floor.

Want more?

Download the Manta Ray Guide below to learn what you always wanted to know about manta rays. Learning about the gentle giants of the sea is the first step towards becoming a manta ray advocate!

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