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General Description

Manta rays, or "hahalua" in Hawaiian, are large sea animals that live in tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate waters worldwide. Their side or pectoral fins have evolved into wide triangular wings that they use to easily propel themselves through the water. With a diamond shaped body and wing spans reaching over 20’ across, manta rays are one of the largest animals in the ocean.

Mantas are usually dark in color on the top of their bodies, though there are exceptions (learn more about coloration here). They are white on the bottom side, or ventral side of their bodies, with dark spots that are unique to each manta and are used to identify individuals.

Mantas eat plankton, and consume____ % of their bodyweight in plankton per day/week. Mantas have specialized gills that filter out water and funnel plankton into the esophagus. 

Plankton are attracted to light, and mantas are attracted to plankton. Due to this behavior, shining bright lights in the water at night allow visitors to swim with mantas at night just off the Kona coast!

Learn more about manta anatomy here!

Manta Ray vs. Stingray

Manta rays are related to stingrays.  Both have flattened body shapes and wide pectoral fins that are fused to the head.  One of the biggest differences between manta rays and stingrays is that manta rays do not have a tail "stinger" or barb like stingrays. There are other differences as well.  Stingrays dwell on the ocean bottom, but manta rays live in the open ocean.  A stingray's mouth is located on the underside of its body whereas the mouth of the manta ray is along the front edge of its body.

    FUN FACT!   Their broad blanket-like bodies earned them the name manta that means cloak or blanket in Spanish.

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