Feb 8

Manta rays are fantastic. Fact. This Valentine’s day ARKive is feeling all loved-up with our Love Species Campaign so here’s my little ‘ode to the manta ray’ in honour of this most wonderful of species. How do I love thee manta ray? Let me count the ways…

Big and clever

Manta rays are the largest species of the rays – the largest known specimen was more than 7.6 metres across! And with the largest body-to-brain ratio of the sharks, rays and skates, manta rays are considered by some to be the most intelligent fish in the ocean. Big, strong and clever – the manta certainly ticks a lot of boxes!

Manta ray photo

Unique appearance

Manta rays are individually identifiable due to a unique pattern of blotches on their underside. This distinctive appearance helps researchers to keep track of individuals over the course of their life. What a helpful species!

Ventral view of a manta ray

Impressive swimming skills

The huge ‘wings’ of the manta ray allow it to glide gracefully through the water. Manta rays efficiently filter plankton out of the water by performing somersaults and they’ve even been seen to jump (or ‘breach’) clear out of the water. Move over Michael Phelps, mantas are the Olympic swimming champions!

Photo of a manta ray leaping out of sea

Good personal hygiene

Keeping neat and tidy is important to manta rays. Individuals regularly visit cleaning stations where small fish, such as wrasse and remora, swim in their gills and over their skin to feed. The small fish get a meal and the manta ray is cleaned of parasites and dead tissue – everyone’s happy!

Manta ray swimming with symbiotic remoras attached

Endangered

One great reason to love manta rays is because they need our help. The slow reproductive rate of manta rays means that they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. One of the main threats manta rays face is the increase in demand for their gill rakers, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines. Supporting manta ray conservation projects and responsible eco-tourism initiatives are just a couple of things we can do to help protect the future of this magnificent species. 

Photo of a manta ray entangled in a fishing net                                        

I think I’ve presented a fairly convincing argument for why we should love manta rays, but what do you think? Which species do you love the most?

Get involved with ARKive’s Love Species Campaign on Twitter. Tell the world what your favourite species is and help to raise awareness about its plight. Find out more about the Love Species Campaign.

And this year you’ve got no excuse for not getting your loved one a card – you can simply send them one of our Valentines e-cards!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher