With their large lobes, long mouths and long thin tails the Manta Rays swim amazingly graceful through the waters.
Manta Rays are 'filter feeders' (animals that feed by straining suspended matter and food particles from water) and feed on plankton and fish larvae near to the surface of the water, making visual sightings from boats quite common. The food is filtered from the water passing through their gills as they swim. The small prey organisms are caught on flat horizontal plates of spongy tissue, that span the spaces between the manta's gill bars.
In Galapagos, The Manta Rays can often be seen from the cliffs at South Plaza Island or even from the beach shore on Rabida Island.
Manta Rays have a diamond shaped body which helps then swim gracefully through the water using their pectoral fins as 'wings'.
Manta Rays are most commonly black on the top of their bodies and white on their underparts, however, some have blue colouring on their backs. A giant mantas eyes are located at the base of the cephalic lobes on each side of the head.
Unlike other rays, their mouth is found at the back edge of its head. To breathe, like other rays, the manta has five pairs of gills on the underside. The Manta rays mouth is big enough to fit 4 fully grown men in it at the same time.
The Manta Ray has distinctive 'horns' from which the common name 'devil ray' stems. They are located on either side of its broad head. The unique structure of these horns is actually derived from the pectoral fins. During embryonic development, part of the pectoral fin breaks away and moves forward, surrounding the mouth. This gives the Manta ray the distinction of being the only jawed vertebrate to have novel limbs.
Their horns are very flexible and are used to direct plankton, small fish and water into the Mantas very broad and wide mouth. The manta can curl them up to reduce drag while swimming.
The Manta Ray is a prized sighting by enthusiastic divers. Mantas are extremely curious around humans and are fond of swimming with scuba divers. They will often surface to investigate boats (without engines running) and reportedly enjoy being stroked. They have the biggest brains of any fish. Mantas are known to breach (leap out of) the water into the air as they swim.
The predators of the Manta ray include mainly large sharks, however in some cases orca/killer whales have also been observed preying on them.