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Manta Manta birostris


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credit: John Hanson/CCSA

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Family: Mobulidae, Mantas view all from this family

Description The manta ray (Manta birostris) is the largest species of the rays. The largest known specimen was more than 7.6 metres (25 ft) across, with a weight of about 1,300 kilograms (2,900 lb). It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the sharks, rays and skates (Elasmobranchii), a brain which is kept warm during lengthy dives to as deep as 500 metres in cold water.

Mantas have a variety of common names, including Atlantic manta, Pacific manta, devilfish, and just manta. At one time it was thought that there were many species of manta. Until quite recently, scientific consensus has been that there is just one species, a view supported by mitochondrial DNA studies.

However recent studies have suggested that manta rays actually comprise at least two different species, the giant manta (Manta birostris), which migrates, and another smaller one called the reef manta (Manta alfredi), which does not. The use of the "alfredi" name is questionable. The species alfredi was first used in the description of Prince Alfred's manta ray by Krefft in 1868. Modern genetic studies have shown that Ceratoptera alfredi (Krefft, 1868), revised as Manta alfredi (Krefft, 1868), is a synonym of Manta birostris (Donndorff, 1798). The genus is generally considered to be in need of worldwide revision. Even the accepted name Manta birostris is often incorrectly ascribed to Walbaum (1792).

Dimensions Up to 22' (6.7 m) wide.

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Open ocean.

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida.