Why Manta Rays Can’t Stop Swimming

by | Aug 31, 2020 | About Manta Rays

Manta rays swim constantly throughout their life; their lives depend on it. If a manta were to stop swimming, it would die. Let’s explore what that means for these majestic animals!


Note: I have also recorded a video about this topic. If you prefer to look & listen, click play to watch the video. If you prefer reading, read on below! 

Manta Rays are in Perpetual Motion

Manta rays belong to a group of fish who are in a constant “state of perpetual motion”. This simply means that mantas never stop swimming. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to breathe.

Manta rays need to keep moving in order to have oxygenated water passing over their gills. By constantly gliding forward, water is pushed to and over their gills which then exits through the gill slits (on the underside of a manta’s body).

Fish with a swim bladder adjust their buoyancy while staying in one place, but mantas do not have one. The non-stop swimming creates a lift that stops the manta from sinking; just like the wings of an airplane do.

That’s why mantas are perpetually swimming, gliding, twirling, or hydro-dynamically “hovering” in the sea current. They silently roam the ocean throughout their entire lifespan.


Underwater photography of the ventral side of a Mobula alfredi detailed with gill slits and cephalic fin
Ventral side of a Mobula alfredi detailed with gill slits and cephalic fin


Not All Marine Animals Swim All The Time

Most other marine animals don’t need to swim in order to stay alive. Many fish don’t need to swim in order to breathe – as long as there’s enough oxygen in the water, they survive just fine.

For example, stingrays can be seen lying flat amongst the ocean floor. They will bury into the sand for protection; that way, they can’t be detected by nearby predators.


Other Marine Animals that Don’t Stop Swimming

Sharks are just like the manta rays; they need to keep moving forward at all times. One exception is the whitetip reef shark, which can lay down like a stingray and push water over its gills.

Tuna is another type of fish that doesn’t stop swimming throughout its lifespan.


Conclusion: Why Manta Rays Swim All The Time

Manta rays don’t stop swimming at any time – if they did, they wouldn’t be able to breathe. That’s just one of the many wondrous characteristics of these graceful creatures.

Download the free manta ray ebook “Facts & Figures” below to find out 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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