Watch the video to go underneath the water with these gentle giants of the deep. Video by Michael Lim.
1) There are two known species of manta rays: the reef manta (Manta alfredi) and the giant oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris). It is suspected that there might be a third, similar-appearing species inhabiting the Caribbean and Atlantic.
2) Giant oceanic rays are slightly larger than reef rays, and are believed to migrate from place to place with greater frequency.
3) Both species are classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
4) Manta” is Spanish for “cloak” which refers to their large blanket-shaped bodies. Unlike other rays, mantas do not have a spine on their tail for defence.
5) These regal and majestic creatures are usually black or dark grey on top, while their ventral surface is white. They also possess shoulder patches and blotches on their underbellies. In fact, the pattern of these blotches exhibits individual variations just like human fingerprints. In other words, each manta ray possesses distinct and unique spots on its ventral surface, which helps in its identification.
6) Male manta rays can be identified by the presence of a pair of external claspers at the base of their pelvic fin, which are not found in female mantas.
7) Like most reef fishes, mantas regularly attend cleaning stations where certain species of fishes pick parasites from their hovering bodies.
8) At the time of mating, the female manta ray is chased by several males, the line-up behind her forming the 'mating trains'. Finally, the female chooses one male to mate with her. It is believed that the mating process in manta rays may be triggered by a full moon.
9) They’re ovoviviparous. The female gives birth to live offspring, but these develop in eggs inside the mother, which are hatched within the uterus after 12 to 13 months.
10) Mantas give birth every other year to a single pup, or a pair of pups that arrive rolled up like burritos.
11) The pups are usually 1.5 to 2 metres wide and weigh approximately 45 kg at the time of birth.
12) When Dani Mulyana, one of SeaTrek’s tour leaders was leading a snorkelling session in Raja Ampat on a Seatrek ‘Jewels of Raja Ampat’ cruise on the Ombak Putih, the group came across an individual reef manta ray gliding through the shallows. Quick-thinking Dani, took out his camera and managed to capture her unique markings. He sent the images off to the Manta Trust in Indonesia so that they might identify the individual and gain more information on her health and migration habits. It turns out that she was an as yet unidentified specimen, and the people from the Manta Trust were overjoyed. When a new specimen is located the finder gets naming rights, and while the Manta Trust has her listed as Manta #750, Dani gave SeaTrek the ultimate compliment by giving her the simple name of ‘Ombak Putih’. Here she is below...
If you would like to swim with manta rays on a SeaTrek Sailing Adventures cruise, contact us and ask us how.
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