Manta Rays are large marine animals that are best known for their triangular fins (sometimes known as wings), flat body shape and thin whip-like tail. These animals can reach more than 7 m (23 ft) in width and a weight of 1,350 kg (3,000 lb). There are two species of manta rays, the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray, and they belong to the eagle ray family. Manta rays are found in most of the world’s oceans from temperate through to tropical waters. The reef manta ray tends to inhabit reef systems and the giant manta ray migrates across the ocean in search for food. Let’s find out what these large rays eat.
What do manta rays eat?
Manta rays are filter feeders, which means that they ingest sea water and filter small food particles from this water. Their diet consists of large quantities of zooplankton, which is any small organism drifting in the ocean. It includes juvenile fish, krill, crustaceans, mollusks and much more. The favorite zooplankton of the manta ray is krill, shrimp and tiny crabs. A manta ray eats about 13% of its body weight in food each week!
Manta rays catch their food by herding the prey into a tight ball. They then swim through the tightly packed group of zooplankton with a wide open mouth (see the above picture). The small particles of food are collected by small projections on their gill arches.
Did you know?
Migrating manta rays will often time their arrival when groups of fish are spawning as this provides them with an easy meal of fish eggs and sperm!
Manta rays visit cleaning stations on coral reefs where small cleaner fish work to remove parasites from the ray!