The manta ray (Manta birostris) is the largest batoid fish in the world. It can reach widths of nearly 30 feet across, and is present in all the world’s oceans. Pectoral fins that have evolved into wing-like shapes allow these magnificent fish to glide effortlessly through the ocean…
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This huge ray has an incredibly slow growth rate, which presents a real problem for their struggling population. Interactions with people can be destructive for Manta birostris because of this, for many fishermen utilize them for their fins and meat. The fate of the manta ray is undecided, and relies almost entirely on the human race. “As manta rays move through their aquatic environment, they process information through many different sensory channels allowing for a complex repertoire of signals and behaviors to be used for finding food, mates, escaping predators, and to facilitate social interactions with conspecifics.” (Deakos, M. 2011). Records state that manta rays can grow anywhere from 20-30 feet in length. That is, from the tip of one ‘wing’ to the other. The largest batoid fish on the planet, Manta birostris has a lot to live up to. It does this just fine by not only being the largest of its order, but by also being one of the largest fish in the world’s oceans. Their color can vary from shades of green to pure black. Each individual has mottles and spots around the abdominal area, and the shades of solid color can vary over the head and back of each animal. Their underbellies are pale, ranging from white to off-white, which makes the black speckles and mottled dots easy to distinguish. Biologists use these speckles and spots in order to identify each manta ray, and have a catalogue of individuals. Wounds and scars are also occasionally used, but after 12 months many of these heal. Chunks out of ‘wings’ or other missing parts are better to use as an identification tool. Aside from their coloring, manta rays have a long tail that grows thinner and thinner until it reaches the tip. Their tails are whip-like at the end and have a shorter length than that of their body. A manta ray’s tail is harmless, however, and has no spines or stingers. The tails, while short, are thought to help in direction, like a rudder on a ship. On the other side of their body, inside the mouth, both male and female manta rays have 300 rows of tiny teeth. The teeth have flat tops and edges, and are not used in feeding. Manta rays are filter feeders, and have no reason to chew their food. What the teeth are used for has been a baffling topic for biologists all over the world. Because so little is known about the manta ray, even small things such as teeth remain a mystery. One theory is that they are used in combat by males and females alike. ‘Combat’ can mean anything from defending territory to defending a mate. Manta birostris is found in all the world’s oceans. These include the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Artic, the Southern, and the Indian oceans. How many and what species occur in what oceans has yet to be discovered. There could well be even more species of manta ray that haven’t been discovered yet. Despite their gigantic size, manta rays prefer shallower inshore waters close to reefs and rocky areas as opposed to the deeper parts of the oceans. They use the more open areas of these shallower places to gracefully glide through the water. Some species of ray may travel into the depths in order to migrate, although evidence of this fact is scattered and not well documented. What little documentation there is, however, is very valuable. “An analysis of 79 underwater photographs of Manta birostris gathered over a period of nine years in a marine protected area suggests a high predictability of manta ray occurrences in the region during the austral winter
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