Manta rays are majestic creatures in the open ocean. They are also one of the most easily distinguishable marine creatures on the planet. Thanks to their widebodies and triangular fins. When you see them underwater, they look like birds flapping their wings. Furthermore, manta rays are close relatives to the apex predator, the great white shark.
This leaves people asking whether 'Are manta rays dangerous?'. Today, you will be learning something new with these creatures. But before we dive deeper into these creatures, if they are dangerous, you must first know some valuable information about them. If you want to learn if they are dangerous, read further down below.
Overview of Manta Rays
Manta rays are considered to be the world's largest type of ray. Its wingspan can reach up to twenty-nine feet and weigh up to 1,000 to 2,000 kilograms, depending on the species. These marine creatures are known to be filter feeders, which means they primarily feed on large quantities of zooplankton. Unfortunately, giant manta rays are also slow when it comes to reaching adulthood. They are migratory animals but have somewhat fragmented numbers across the globe.
Are Manta Rays dangerous?
Despite their intimidating appearance, they are no excuse when it comes to threats. One of its primary threats is commercial fishing and bycatching. They are primarily fished for their gill rakers, a famous commodity in parts of the world.
With their steady decline, various organizations worldwide passed laws to protect these creatures as they are considered to be threatened by NOAA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Manta rays are known for possessing diamond-shaped bodies that are quite lengthy. These elongated wing-like fins help them propel into the ocean with ease, along with their gill slits that are ventrally-placed, making them good swimmers. Furthermore, manta rays come in two colors, they can be either black upper portion and white underbelly, or they can be entirely black.
There are only two species of manta rays, and they are reef manta rays and giant manta rays. The giant manta rays are relatively bigger than their counterparts and possess rougher skin and a caudal thorn. They can also be distinguished as reef manta rays are differently colored compared to your traditional manta rays.
Giant manta rays are migratory species that depend on the concentration of zooplankton, which is their primary food source. Therefore, they are considered seasonal visitors from various waters around the globe and also correspond to various factors such as tidal patterns, current circulation, and many more.
The giant manta rays are also considered solitary creatures, but they aggregate in various sites looking for food or whether it's mating season. When giant manta rays feed on zooplanktons, they usually form their cephalic fins into O-shaped while opening their mouth to catch and siphon out their food while gliding through the deep water. In some manta rays, they exhibit various feeding patterns in which they aggregate in shallow waters around 10 meters deep that may or may not exceed 15 meters.
Their variations in their habitat are quite intricate, to say the least, they can be out in the open water around 10 to 15 meters deep, and some searchers believe they can go as deep as 1,000 meters into the deep. However, these behaviors can be attributed to various factors such as current circulation, seasonal shifts, and thermocline.
Where Can We Find Manta Rays?
Manta rays can be found in all waters around the water. From tropical to subtropical, and even in temperate bodies of water, you can still be able to find them. Some of them can also be found in a location such as estuaries, intercoastal waterways, and even oceanic inlets. In addition, you can find manta rays in cool waters as low as 19°C, while they may also vary from time to time.
Are Manta Rays Dangerous To Humans?
So, are Manta Rays dangerous? Although they can be classified as close to sharks, as these marine creatures aren't made up of bones but instead cartilaginous skeletons, manta rays aren't harmful to humans and show signs that they can tolerate human presence. They also don't have large teeth as they are primarily filter feeders.
Filter feeder means marine creatures who thrive off very small microorganisms found in the ocean, and they can also feed on very small crabs and fish. As we've mentioned, they don't have several big teeth; while there is one part, it is located at the bottom of its mouth, which is used to chew down its food. These sets of teeth are also not large enough to chomp down or tear down big parts of meat, and they often rely on their intimidating size to ward off predators such as the orcas.
What makes them majestic creatures of the ocean is the way they propel themselves into the water, their wing-like fins almost seem like a bird flapping its wings underwater, and it can go as fast as 14kph. Manta rays are also popular to divers and swimmers as they can be at peace with them and swim in a graceful manner that seems like they are acknowledging your presence.
Wrapping Things Up
Are manta rays dangerous? The quick answer to that is no. Although they can be quite intimidating to look at, these creatures pose no dangers or threats to humans as they swim along underwater. In even rare instances, they even show curiosity and weird behavior as they swim themselves with humans. While the stigma around manta rays isn't as good as you would've liked, they are angelic creatures roaming around the open ocean.
What makes them quite intimidating is that they are large, and their horn-cephalic fins resemble a devil's horn, hence the stigma around them. People see them as angelic creatures as they are well-educated with them, but it's the other way around for some people. Still, these marine creatures are all important regardless of how they look. So, to sum it all up, manta rays aren't dangerous and would be willing to associate themselves with you as long as you are up to the challenge.
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