In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
This month our Creature Feature is from guest writer – Yolanda Evans. 17-year old Yolanda has been passionate about sharks all her life, and this month she explores the world of the Oceanic Manta Ray…
The graceful Oceanic Manta Ray dances their way through the blue waters with a wingspan of 7 metres which can reach a maximum of 9 metres, making them the biggest ray in the world. These manta’s have a circumglobal distribution and are found in temperate, tropical, and subtropical. They have a deep black dorsal side with a white T marking on their back and the ventral side is white with black freckles. However, they can be easily confused with Reef Manta’s, but the two main differentiating features (despite their size) is that the white markings on the Reef Manata make a Y shape and there are no freckles on their underside.
Recognisable by the two mouth parts known as the cephalic lobes: extensions of their massive pectoral fins that are used for feeding, helping the ray scoop mouthfuls of plankton. They must eat 20-30 kg of plankton a day, which is only about 2% of their total body weight.
Oceanic Manta’s can have up to 4000 tiny teeth but they don’t use these for feeding, they use them for when they are mating as the males have to hold themselves onto the females! The cephalic lobes can either be flexed out-seen when they are feeding, or curled up for spiral swimming and doing underwater flips!
Having the largest brain to body ratio of any cold-blooded fish, it is thought that they are able to pass the mirror test, showing that they have self-awareness! They are also capable of creating mental maps using smells and environmental barings, helping on their migrations.
Gatherings of these manta’s are rare, but when they come together it is an elegant marine ballet! A group of manta’s, known as a squadron, typically gather for two main reasons: mating and feeding. Manta’s will do somersaults in areas rich in prey to maximise their intake of prey. They will also participate in chain-feeding, this is when each manta follows the other in a circle to create a whirlpool which traps their prey inside!
Cleaning and maintenance is very important to these fish as they will undergo special migrations to coral reefs where Cleaner fish come and groom off parasites and dead skin. These cleaning stations are so important to these rays that they will go back to the same spot for many years!
Out of all elasmobranchs the Giant Manta has one of the slowest reproduction rates, only producing one pup every two to three years and can be pregnant for 12-13 months! However, due to commercial fishing and bycatch, they cannot keep up with the extortionate rate that their populations are decreasing by. This has led to the Oceanic Manta Ray to be listed as endangered by the IUCN. Manta’s are targeted for their gill rakers by traditional medicines that can reach up to $400 USD per kg.
Not only are Oceanic Manta’s threatened by fishing, but also by pollution in the oceans. Microplastics and heavy metals accumulate in their tissues. This can unfortunately lead to serious illnesses like cancers.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mobula birostris
MAXIMUM WINGSPAN: 8.8m
DIET: Filter feeds for plankton, but also consumes deep water fish
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread distribution in tropical and temperate waters worldwide
HABITAT: Ocean-going. Surface to deep waters – 1,000m.
Images: Frogfish Photography
For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
Book Review: The Sea Lions of Los Islotes
Review of The Sea Lions of Los Islotes – The Jewel of Espiritu Santo Island
Having dived with and filmed these amazing Sea Lions myself many years ago I was delighted to see this new book by Luke Inman. It brought back memories of the most friendly and playful animals in our marine world. Their exuberance and desire for play seems unmatched anywhere else. Luke’s book is a true celebration of the Sea Lion.
The book is well written but not overly heavy on the text. Instead there are short comprehensive paragraphs on their behaviour and lifestyle. This is all supported by plenty of images reflecting Luke’s experiences and relationship with these gregarious animals. It is not often you feel you are watching an animal smile but these do. Constantly. It is with these images Luke shares his love and enthusiasm for the Sea Lions.
In the book Luke mentions the modern day issues faced by the Sea Lions in reference to Climate change, over fishing and Ghost fishing. These are serious factors in the life of any marine animals and must not be ignored or brushed over.
Luke also briefly mentions Sea Lions in captivity for the amusement of human beings. He rightly points out that the animals suffer bad health and die prematurely compared to those in the wild. I would like to add that a Sea Lion in a tank or marine park, performing tricks, is not a Sea Lion at all. It is a low base form of its natural self and should never be captive and imprisoned in this way.
It’s a good book and well worth looking up. Especially as it is getting near Christmas.
About the author
Luke Inman is an award-winning scuba Instructor Trainer, natural history filmmaker, photographer, writer and explorer. His work includes the BBC’s Planet Earth 3, Netflix’s Our Planet and advertising campaigns. Luke is the Owner and Operator of The Dive Gurus — the only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Release date 25 October 2022 | RRP £25 | Paperback | ISBN 978-1-909455-49-8 | 136 pages | 246 x 189 mm
Available now from Divedup.com, online and from retailers.
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