… That a Manta Ray gives birth every other year to a single pup, or a pair of four-foot pups that arrive rolled up like burritos?
Manta rays are large rays belonging to the genus Manta. The larger species, the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, reaches 7 m (23 ft 0 in) in width while the smaller, The Reef Manta Ray, reaches 5.5 m (18 ft 1 in). Both have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, forward-facing mouths. They are classified among the Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) and are placed in the family Myliobatidae (eagle rays).
Mantas are found in temperate, subtropical and tropical waters. Both species are pelagic which means being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore; The Giant Manta Ray migrates across open oceans, on its own or in groups, while The Reef Manta Ray tends to be resident and coastal. They are filter feeders and eat large quantities of zooplankton, which they swallow with their open mouths as they swim. Gestation lasts over a year, producing live pups. Mantas may visit cleaning stations for the removal of parasites. Like whales, they breach, for unknown reasons.
Both species are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and direct harvesting for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats. They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore. Areas where mantas congregate are popular with tourists. Only a few aquariums are large enough to house them. In general, these large fish are seldom seen and difficult to study.
One of the most amazing creatures in my books…