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the web of life in southern Africa

Manta birostris (Manta)

(Walbaum, 1792)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Batoidei >  Myliobatoidei Mobulidae

Manta birostris (Manta) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]

Identification

A giant ray with paired long head fins on an extremely broad head, mouth at front of head, and upper surface of disk covered with denticles. Colour blackish above, sometimes with white shoulder patches, white below with grey edging on disk.

Size

One of the largest living fishes, to at least 6.7 m DW.

Range

Southwest and east coast, Cape Point to Natal and probably northwards; circumtropical.

 

Habitat

A pelagic, coastal and oceanic ray of the tropics, common off Natal but occasionally occuring off the western Cape.

Biology

A swift, powerful swimmer that `flies' birdlike through the water and into the air in spectacular leaps. Bears 2 young, which may be forcefully ejected into the air as the mother spins partway out of the water. Feeds on plankton and small fish. Harmless, may approach divers in apparent curiosity.

Human Impact

Not normally caught, except in small numbers by the Natal shark nets; shark-netting crews release net-caught mantas and other rays if they are still alive. Mantas sometimes accidentally grab the anchor lines of small boats with their head fins, and haul the boats away. An awesome sight for divers, particularly photographers

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale.