Many people probably don’t think about this much, but like other sea creatures, manta rays eat and thus have to “eliminate.” Here’s more about how manta rays poop, vomit, and other surprising facts about mantas!
From Food to Poop
First of all, manta rays mostly eat small and microscopic zooplankton, which is an alphabet soup of copepods, mysid shrimp, crab larva, mollusk larvae and fish eggs. Both the giant oceanic manta and the slightly smaller reef mantas are huge animals, so they eat a LOT of it – read more about how much plankton they eat (and what it really means for the ecosystem) in this article!
The excrement of mantas is expelled as a cloudy stream of dark red plankton from its cloaca. That’s the common chamber at the end of a mantas’ digestive tract for the release of both excretory and genital products.
Incidentally, a manta can feed and poop at the same time, a feat not attributed to many animals or mammals.
While pooping, manta rays occasionally perform a thorough cleansing of indigestible material and parasites. They do that by squeezing their intestine outside of their body, thereby emitting a cloud of particulate matter. This process is called “Intestinal Eversion.”
Moving on From Poop… To Vomit. Eeek!
Manta rays sometimes end up with clogged-up gills from filter-feeding. Thankfully, they’re able to dislodge trapped food through so-called “coughing” or “vomiting”. That vomit turns out to be a treat for surrounding fish!
To watch manta rays pooping and vomiting (eeek!), click play on the video below.
For more fun and interesting facts about manta rays, check out this article.