Ever since I first went Scuba Diving I have always wanted to see a manta ray up close. I have heard so many stories about them, and how awesome it was to dive with them. People have told me, “manta rays are very gentle creatures, and their size is overwhelming. They will come up to you as if you had called them like a dog, and soar gracefully over your head as you stare at them in disbelief.” Right after I heard this I knew that I had to dive with, and learn everything about them. In order for me to dive with them I’m going to need to know when the best time is to see one, and where I can see one. It also couldn’t hurt to know some general knowledge about them because I wouldn’t want to disturb or mess up anything that is taking place.
Besides just background information, I would like to find out how big they can get, and how long they can live. Also, I want to know how they produce their offspring, and how big their offspring are at birth. As well, I would like to find out what they eat, and who their predators are. Answers to these questions will give me a better understanding of manta rays, and hopefully make my experience will them more fulfilling.
Since today is my first day searching for my I-search report on manta rays, I decided to use the Internet. First, I went to yahoo.com and typed in manta rays. Then, I clicked on manta rays, and it brought me to the site tripod.com. It was a good source of information, so I printed it out. Next, I went back to yahoo.com, and clicked on manta rays-gentle giants. This brought me to a site, which I also printed out. After that I decided to switch search engines, so I went to google.com to see if different information would come up. I again typed in manta rays and it gave me a bunch of sites to choose from. I clicked on manta rays-Cayman Islands, and printed that out as well.
Today I decided to go to the electric library to see if there was any good information there. I typed in manta rays and it gave me a bunch of books, magazines, and pictures on them. I clicked on Rays-1998 Canadian Encyclopedia, and it gave me useful information, so I printed it out. Then I proceeded to click on Rays-World book Encyclopedia, and I printed that out.
Today I again decided to use the electronic library to see if I missed anything. I clicked on a bunch of news broadcasts, but there was nothing of use. I looked through the list of books that they gave me, but still found nothing that I could use. Then, I decided to look in the electronic card catalog on the computer. I typed in manta rays, scuba diving, and marine life each separately, but they all gave me no information that I could use. After that, I tried the regular card catalog, but that also did not help. As a last resort, I asked the librarian where she thought the best place to look for manta rays was. She told me to go to the gale database on the computer, and try searching there. That’s what I did, and I ended up getting an article in a skin diving magazine.
“Mantas are the largest of the rays, can grow to a wingspan of 20 feet, and can weigh well over 3000 pounds” (Cayman.org). Because of this, and their gentle nature, these creatures have become a favorite attraction for divers.
Manta comes from the Spanish word-meaning blanket, which describes their unique body shape (Reef Briefs). Their skeletal structure is very similar to that of a shark, which is made out of cartilage (McEachran). Because of this many people characterize them as “Flattened out sharks” (Reef Briefs). Even though, they are closely related to the shark, they are very different (Scott). The one main difference between the two is the fact that the manta ray is known to be one of the gentlest creatures in the sea. What’s ironic about this is that fisherman use to call them the “devil fish” (tripod.com), and thought that they were capable of destroying their boats. This isn’t hard to believe because of their enormous size, and their fins on the side of their head that look like horns (Reef Briefs).
Despite their size and appearance they eat relatively small food. Some of the things that they feed on are plankton, small fish, and crustaceans. Since they are bottom dwellers their mouth and gills are located on the underside of the body (tripod.com). “The Manta ray utilizes its gills when it feeds by sucking water through its gills, allowing plankton to remain in its mouth, while water is pumped out. Then, via gill arches, the plankton is redirected to the ray’s stomach for digestion” (Reef Brief). The cephalic fins, or “horns” which people called them, are fins that extend forward from the eyes, which helps the manta guide large amounts of plankton into its mouth (cayman.org).
The manta ray is sexually mature as soon as its pectoral fins reach a length of 13 to 15 feet. Unlike most fish, the female manta ray’s egg is fertilized inside of her body, so their young are born like a mammal’s young (McEachran). “Female ray’s give birth to one or two rays per litter, each weighing up to 25 pounds at birth!” (Reef Briefs). These rays, often called pups, learn to avoid predators by staying on the bottom, and by throwing sand on their body using their pectoral fins. The only predators that they really face are the killer whale and the shark (Reef Briefs). Because of this, the species is allowed to flourish, and are able to live in many places.
Manta rays are known to be pelagic, which means that they like to live in the open ocean. Occasionally, they like to come close to the land to feed, or just to swim around. These rays, for some reason, like to spend a lot of time on the surface, or jumping completely out of the water. Some scientists’ think that the reason for this is to get rid of parasites that cling to their body, or that they do it just for fun (cayman.org). People have reported that they have seen the manta rays jump 15 feet out of the water (Reef Briefs).
One of the most famous places to see manta rays up close is at Yap Island, which is in the southwest corner of Micronesia, near Guam. This island was one of the first places that people were able to get close enough to photograph the manta rays. As soon as divers heard of this they went there to see the mantas for themselves. Because of this many of the dive masters there were afraid that the influx of divers would scare the mantas away, but the exact opposite happened. The manta rays were curious of the divers and came closer to them than before. Over the years the island has reported an increase on the number of manta rays seen on daily dive trips. A scientist named Bill Acker believes that mantas are attracted to Yap Island because it has shallow inner land mangroves, which are a perfect birthing area for the females. This has made the island one of the best places to dive with the manta rays (Murphy 42).
The largest and most rare species of manta rays, Manta Alfredi, or Prince Alfred’s Manta Ray, is known to hang around the Yap Islands. It was named after “Prince Alfred Ernest (1844-1900), the fourth child of Queen Victoria of Great Britain” (tripod.com). This ray closely resembles the other manta rays with the exception of irregular black-gray spots on its underside, and the fact that its wingspan is at least 12 feet (tripod.com).
In conclusion, the manta ray is one of the most graceful, and gentle creatures of the sea, which has become a favorable attraction for divers. Its enormous size perplexes the mind as it flies through the water. The more that I researched the manta rays, the more that I wanted to go diving with them. What I learned from this paper will give me a better understanding of where and when the best times are to dive with them, which are at night and at the Yap Islands. I now will also be on the lookout for the rare and large Prince Alfred’s ray every time that I dive. This paper has also helped me learn many important facts about them, like how they reproduce, how big they get, their scientific name, and what they eat. All of this information will defiantly help me out in the future because of the fact that I plan on becoming a marine biologist when I grow up. Learning all that I can about the marine life now will save a lot of time when I have to study them in college.
Manta Ray. 13. Manta Ray- Manta birostris. 11/8/01: www.cayman.org/fauna/manta.htm
Manta Rays. 26. Manta Rays- San Benedicto Island Mexico, Yap Micronesia, Trinidad and Tobago, Kona Coast Hawaii. 11/8/01:http://members.tripod.com/ranndino/animals.htm
Manta Rays- The Gentle Giants, 5. Reef Briefs. 11/8/01: www.greenreefbelize.com/reefbriefs/briefs41.htm
McEachran, John. D. Ray. The World book Encyclopedia. 1/1/00.
Murphy, P. 1996, April. Yaps Multiplying Mantas. Skin Diver. Vol. 45. Issue 4.
Scott, W.B. Ray. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 9/6/97.