Giant oceanic manta ray

Giant oceanic manta ray
Temporal range: 23–0 Ma[1] Early Miocene to Present
Manta birostris-Thailand4.jpg
Scientific classification
M. birostris
Binomial name
Manta birostris
Walbaum, 1792
Cypron-Range Manta birostris.svg
Range of the giant oceanic manta ray
  • Manta hamiltoni Hamilton & Newman, 1849
  • Raja birostris Donndorff, 1798

The giant oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) is a species of ray in the family Mobulidae, and the largest type of ray in the world. They are circumglobal and are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters, but can also be found in temperate waters.[3]


M. birostris with rolled up cephalic fins and characteristic dorsal coloration ( Ko Hin Daeng, Thailand)
Side view of M. birostris with unfolded cephalic fins ( Ko Hin Daeng, Thailand)

The giant oceanic manta ray can grow to a disc size of up to 7 m (23 ft) across with a weight of about 3,000 kg (6,600 lb)[4] but average size commonly observed is 4.5 m (15 ft).[5] It is dorsoventrally flattened and has large, triangular pectoral fins on either side of the disc. At the front, it has a pair of cephalic fins which are forward extensions of the pectoral fins. These can be rolled up in a spiral for swimming or can be flared out to channel water into the large, forward-pointing, rectangular mouth when the animal is feeding. The teeth are in a band of 18 rows and are restricted to the central part of the lower jaw. The eyes and the spiracles are on the side of the head behind the cephalic fins, and the gill slits are on the ventral (under) surface. It has a small dorsal fin and the tail is long and whip-like. The manta ray does not have a spiny tail as do the closely related devil rays (Mobula spp.) but has a knob-like bulge at base of its tail.[6]

The skin is smooth with a scattering of conical and ridge-shaped tubercles. The colouring of the dorsal (upper) surface is black, dark brown, or steely blue, sometimes with a few pale spots and usually with a pale edge. The ventral surface is white, sometimes with dark spots and blotches. The markings can often be used to recognise individual fish.[7] Manta birostris is similar in appearance to Manta alfredi and the two species may be confused as their distribution overlaps. However, there are distinguishing features.

Physical distinctions between oceanic manta ray and reef manta ray

Front of a giant manta ray (Manta birostris) filter feeding, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.

The oceanic manta ray is larger than the reef manta ray, 4 to 5 meters in average against 3 to 3.5 meters.[8] However, if the observed rays are young, their size can easily bring confusion. Only the color pattern remains an effective way to distinguish them. The reef manta ray has a dark dorsal side with usually two lighter areas on top of the head, looking like a nuanced gradient of its dark dominating back coloration and whitish to greyish, the longitudinal separation between these two lighter areas forms a kind of "Y". While for the oceanic manta ray, the dorsal surface is deep dark and the two white areas are well marked without gradient effect. The line of separation between these two white areas form meanwhile a "T".

Difference can also be made by their ventral coloration, the reef manta ray has a white belly with often spots between the branchial gill slits and other spots spread across trailing edge of pectoral fins and abdominal region. The oceanic manta ray has also a white ventral coloration with spots clustered around lower region of its abdomen. Its cephalic fins, inside of its mouth and its gill slits are often black.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Manta
azərbaycanca: Nəhəng dəniz iblisi
български: Манта
català: Manta gegant
Cebuano: Pagi
čeština: Manta obrovská
Deutsch: Riesenmanta
Ελληνικά: Σαλάχι μάντα
español: Manta birostris
Bahasa Indonesia: Ikan pari manta
italiano: Manta birostris
עברית: מנטה ענק
Basa Jawa: Pé manta
қазақша: Манта (скат)
Lëtzebuergesch: Risemanta
Nederlands: Reuzenmanta
polski: Manta (ryba)
português: Jamanta
русский: Манта
Simple English: Manta ray
svenska: Jättemanta
Türkçe: Deniz şeytanı
українська: Манта
Tiếng Việt: Cá nạng hải
中文: 鬼蝠魟