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Manta rays are commonly seen near coral reefs, but for a 23 foot (7m) wide, 3000lb (1400 kg) giant very little is known about this animal.
Most rays are bottom dwellers that feed on crabs and other small organisms. Although their ancestors probably lived in much the same way, mantas rays evolved a very different life style. Manta rays swim through the upper layers of the ocean filtering plankton from the water.
Manta rays are commonly visitors to coral reefs. They feed from this productive ecosystem, and also visit reef ‘cleaning stations’ where small fish, like wrasse and angelfish, pick parasites from the manta ray’s skin.
Manta rays have few natural predators because of their size. Only Orca and large sharks, such as Tiger sharks, successfully hunt these large rays.
Some cultures fish manta rays for food or medicine. Manta rays usually become rare very quickly when this happens, because of the manta ray’s low reproductive rate. Manta rays give birth to 1 or 2 pups each year, and females sometimes take a year off to recover her resources before breeding again. This low reproductive rate means that manta ray populations take a long time to recover if their numbers are reduced.
Manta rays are not commercial fished, but they are sometimes accidentally caught, because they swim slowly in the upper layers of the ocean.
It is not known if manta rays are endangered, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers them Near Threatened, because of their low reproductive rate.
A new species of manta ray has recently been discovered. This ray is even more mysterious than the common manta ray (Manta birostris). This new species is larger than the common manta ray. It migrates through the open oceans and is rarely seen near coral reefs.
Handwerk, B. (2008, July 31). New manta ray species discovered, expert says. National Geographic. Retrieved 9 September 2008 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/07/080731-new-ray.html
Marshall, A. et al. (2006). Manta birostris. In 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Retrieved 9 September 2008 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/39417/all
Martin, A. (2003). Manta ray (Manta birostris) FAQ. ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. Retrieved 9 September 2008 from http://www.elasmo-research.org/education/topics/lh_manta_faq.htm
Save our seas foundation. (2008). Manta rays: A new species. Save our seas foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2008 from http://www.saveourseas.com/manta-rays-a-new-species
Wikipedia. (2008, September 6). Manta ray. Wikipedia. Retrieved 9 September 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manta_ray
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