Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday
Photo by Jim Abernethy
The giant oceanic manta ray can grow to a disc size of up to 7 m (23 ft) with a weight of about 1,350 kg (2,980 lb) but average size commonly observed is 4.5 m (15 ft). The reef manta ray can grow to a disc size of up to 5 m (16 ft) but average size commonly observed is 3 to 3.5 m (11 ft). Both species have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins, large forward-facing mouths and gills in the lower body, through which it obtains oxygen from water. Manta rays have approximately 300 rows of skin-covered teeth in its lower jaw. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage and not bone. Their tails lack skeletal support and are shorter than their disc-like bodies. Their tails also lack venomous tail spikes that all other rays have. Manta rays must swim continuously to keep oxygenated water passing over their gills. They can swim up to 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour. Mantas visit cleaning stations on coral reefs for the removal of external parasites. The ray adopts a near-stationary position close to the coral surface for several minutes while the cleaner fish consume the attached organisms. An individual manta eats about 13% of its body weight each week. Manta rays have the largest brain of all the world’s fishes.