Free as a Bird by joostvanuf The pelagic manta ray (Manta Birostris) is the biggest living ray species in the world. It can reach lengths of over 7m from wingtip till wingtip weighing up to 1400 kg’s! Different from their reef cousins (Manta Alfredi) they tend to migrate long distances across the vast blue ocean rather than sticking to the reefs.
Only in 2009 the pelagic manta genus was split from the reef manta indicating how little we actually know about these animals. These are gentle, curious animals listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Population sizes have been dropping considerably since they are sought after as a source of food, shark bait and for Chinese bogus medicinal purposes.
Recently Indonesia set an example by placing a ban on catching both manta species to protect their remaining populations as the value of a living manta in tourism is deemed way higher than a dead one shipped to China.
Did you know that our popular pelagic rays come right over at feeding time? “They’re very charismatic,” says one aquarist, tossing them another shrimp. “They flip over on their backs and scoop the food in with their fins. It’s like playing ring toss at the carnival!”
Love rays—and want to help them? Pelagic rays eat jellies, so drifting plastic bags look like their natural prey—a deadly mistake. You can help save rays by picking up plastic at the beach and disposing of trash far from the ocean.