How Can You Tell Individual Manta Rays Apart?

May 8, 2020 | About Manta Rays

For most visitors, all manta rays look alike. For the trained eye, however, there are several ways to tell which manta rays we’re observing; over thirty years of experience now makes it possible for us to recognise most of the local gentle giants without too much difficulty.

Telling Manta Rays Apart by Color Pattern

The manta rays we regularly encounter along the Kona Coast of the Big Island are reef mantas (Mobula alfredi) with the common coloration pattern of a dark (grey to black) dorsal side contrasted with a white ventral.

Dorsal side of a reef manta ray

Dorsal side of a reef manta ray

The white underside has randomly distributed (more or less) dark pigmentation which makes every manta ray’s pattern unique. Compare it with the human fingerprint, it makes it easy to distinguish between individuals. To make the comparison even easier, we focus on the spot pattern between the gill slits.

Comparing spot patterns gill slits enables us to tell manta rays apart

Comparing spot patterns between manta rays

Telling Manta Rays Apart by their “Personalities”

Besides the identifying marks, we’ve also learned that manta rays have individual “personalities.” Here are some of my favorites.

Koie Ray

Koie Ray - manta ray ID 2001

Koie Ray – ID 2001

I smile every time I see Koie. She is between 12 and 13 feet (fin tip to fin tip) and awes everyone with her size and boldness. She is one of the most regular manta rays we encounter and I always say “Hi” and send air-kisses to her through my regulator LOL. It is really exciting to see this majestic fish.

Fun Fact: Koie Ray has overcome several fishing-line and hook injuries! Way to go Koie Ray!! So proud of you.

Big Bertha

Big Bertha - manta ray ID 1992

Big Bertha – ID 1992

Our team has watched this lady through several pregnancies. We’ve seen her belly as it grew and then 13 months later (WOW!), a new miniature manta was born and ready to go.

Fun Fact: Big Bertha is one of the largest Kona rays estimated at 14-16 feet wide. It feels like a ‘747’ is landing at the dive site when she arrives!

Lefty

Lefty - manta ray ID 1979

Lefty – ID 1979

We love this female because she was the first manta ray identified on the Kona Coast in 1979; over 40 years ago! Until 2016 she was a regular visitor with 150 to 200 sightings annually and taught us as to how long mantas might live.

Fun Fact: Lefty has a damaged left cephalic fin. She’s living proof manta rays can overcome anything!

Jolene Ray

Jolene Ray - manta ray ID 2017

Jolene Ray – ID 2017

This stunning swimmer is beautiful and pristine and she is still a “toddler” in size. She is only 5 feet wide but size doesn’t matter for the little performer. Jolene Ray is already a regular act at the nightly show.

Special Manta Rays: Shirley Ray and Hans Ray

Over the years we have identified and named over 50 new mantas. Two are very special as they were named after family members who have passed away.

Shirley Ray - manta ray ID 2010

Shirley Ray – ID 2010

SHIRLEY RAY is a lovely lady, while she was shy at first, she is now a regular show off!

Hans Ray - manta ray ID 2005

Hans Ray – ID 2005

HANS RAY is a special manta that frequents both dive sites and he isn’t afraid to “visit” with divers and snorkelers.

Heartwarming Fun Fact: Both Shirley Ray and Hans Ray symbolize the spirit and memories of our loved ones. Their names are now attached to a mysterious creature who roams the ocean depths in perpetual motion for 40-80 years.

A unique manta ray for the Star Wars enthusiast

DARTH RAY-DER needs no introduction, right? 🙂

Darth Ray-der - manta ray ID 2012

Darth Ray-der – ID 2012

Darth Ray-der meets Darth Vader - manta ray ID 2012

No caption needed!

Can’t get enough? Then we invite you to discover our entire Manta Ray Library, or learn more about manta rays and become an ocean advocate with our (free) downloadable guide to manta rays.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE DIVING IN WITH THE MANTA RAYS

If you’re thinking about booking a manta ray activity, don’t miss our guide for swimming with manta rays in Hawaii. It’ll answer all your questions about equipment, prerequisites, safety, sustainability, and much more.

It’s a great FREE resource for anyone who’s getting ready to experience the manta rays firsthand.

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mantas in this post

Big Bertha

Big Bertha

WINGSPAN 12-14 feet

GENDER Female

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Darth Ray-der

Darth Ray-der

WINGSPAN 6-8 feet

GENDER Male

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Hans Ray

Hans Ray

WINGSPAN 6-8 feet

GENDER Male

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Jolene Ray

Jolene Ray

WINGSPAN 5 feet

GENDER Female

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Koie Ray

Koie Ray

WINGSPAN 12-14 feet

GENDER Female

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Lefty

Lefty

WINGSPAN 12-13 feet

GENDER Female

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

Shirley Ray

Shirley Ray

WINGSPAN 6-8 feet

GENDER Female

SPECIES Mobula Alfredi (reef)

More things you’ll love!

Decoding The Life Cycle of Manta Rays – and Our Role in Their Survival

Decoding The Life Cycle of Manta Rays – and Our Role in Their Survival

The 7 Extraordinary Senses of Manta Rays

The 7 Extraordinary Senses of Manta Rays

How Citizen Science contributes to our Knowledge of Manta Rays

How Citizen Science contributes to our Knowledge of Manta Rays

10 Fun Facts about Manta Rays

10 Fun Facts about Manta Rays

Are manta rays fish or mammals? Do they lay eggs?

Are manta rays fish or mammals? Do they lay eggs?

Where to Find Manta Rays in the Wild Around the World

Where to Find Manta Rays in the Wild Around the World

We participate in referral programs, and this website contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking a link on this website, we may get a commission – at no extra cost for you.

We only include products we love and wholeheartedly recommend. Read more here.

Free Downloads

Manta Ray Facts & Figures Ebook

Amaze your friends and family members with your knowledge of the gentle giants.

→ GRAB YOUR COPY

Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays

All the things you need to know before you embark on this adventure of a lifetime.

→ GET IT NOW

10 Tips for Marine Photography

Learn to capture life-changing moments underwater.

→ I NEED THIS

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!