The oceanic whitetip shark has suffered population declines of up to 88 percent in the Atlantic. Populations of the giant manta ray, which has a wingspan of up to 29 feet, have plummeted by up to 95 percent.
A peer-reviewed study by Center scientists, released in January, found most marine species listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering. Listed species with critical habitat protections and those listed for more than 20 years are most likely to be rebounding. In February 2019 Defenders and the Center also sent a detailed technical letter to the agency urging it to designate critical habitat for the giant manta ray in U.S. waters.
Scientists believed there was only one species of manta ray until 2009, when Andrea Marshall, then a graduate student at the University of Queensland in Australia, showed that there were actually two distinct species: the coastal-living reef manta ray and the open-ocean oceanic manta ray. Marshall suspected there was even a third irregularly colored manta species. But the rays were hard to glimpse and even harder to capture. The specter of this missing manta has lingered over manta biologists ever since.
Manta rays have five gill slits on their undersides. They feed by straining fish and plankton out of the water. Like the eagle rays, they propel themselves through the water by flapping their pectoral fins. The giant manta ray is a member of this family. It can be up to 22 feet across!
With so many different types of rays, it can be hard to tell them apart but one of the main distinguishable features of the Oceanic Manta Ray are the horns located either side of their huge mouths. These are used to funnel plankton - a manta rays favourite snack!
Oceanic Manta Rays have a lifespan of around 15-20 years and are mostly preyed upon by Sharks and Killer Whales. However, human factors such as unsustainable fishing and an ever increasing demand for their body parts has led the Oceanic Manta Ray to become the first manta ray to be listed as an endangered species.
On closer inspection, you will notice that the Devil Ray is much pointer than a Manta. Their heads are also narrower, and their cephalic fins, or horns, point forward rather than curling around the mouth like a manta rays do. This is where the Devil Ray gets its name.
Aside from a noticeable size difference, (manta's being far bigger) one of the easiest signs to separate a manta ray vs stingray are found on their tails. Manta rays do not have a tail "stinger" or barb like stingrays. That means that manta rays can't sting you or anybody for that matter
Markings are quite variable. Dorsum predominantly black, usually with varying white or grey shoulder markings that create a black T-shaped central space. The downstroke of the T narrows to a point, similar to a Tesla car logo. This differs from the standard T-shape on the centre line of an oceanic manta which has more of a wine glass shaped downstroke.V-shaped marking anterior to tail, occasionally curving outward to reach pectoral fin apices. Mouth and inner surface of cephalic lobes usually white or dusky; outer/ventral surface white.Ventrum mostly white, sometimes with dusky spots on 5th gill slits and a broad dusky margin along posterior edge of disc. Ventrum between gills and cloaca sometimes have irregular black spots and blotches that are unique to each animal.Melanistic individuals are quite common; usually with an almost or completely black dorsal surface and either a black margined or solid black ventrum.
The Caribbean Manta Ray has yet to be recognized as a valid species. Currently, it is grouped with the oceanic manta ray, which is listed as globally endangered. In Mexico, mantas are taken for food and for their gill rakers, so there is a likelihood of the Caribbean manta being similarly evaluated in the future.
YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO.Scores of Caribbean mantas often show up to join the huge aggregation of whale sharks that feasts on clouds of tuna eggs each summer north of Isla Mujeres. The mantas are not always in the same spot as the whale sharks but experienced captains can usually find the mantas. Later in the season (July-August) seems to be the best time.
2-3 hours north of Cancun in the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, there is a manta cleaning station that the locals call Manta Valley. This spot is a bit hit or miss during whale shark season but is apparently much more reliable in the fall. As it is far from shore, this site is highly weather dependent.
Caribbean Manta Ray, Manta cf. birostris. An as-yet undescribed third species of manta ray from the Western tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Closely related to the Oceanic Manta - Manta birostris.
Caribbean Manta Ray, Manta cf. birostris with a damaged cephalic lobe, probably from entanglement in fishing line. An as-yet undescribed third species of manta ray from the Western tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Closely related to the Oceanic Manta - Manta birostris. 781b155fdc