Affected by many of the same threats that now endanger sharks, rays are often overlooked by the general public. However, IUCN reported that ray species have been found to be at a higher risk than sharks. Rays are slow growing, migratory animals that produce only one or two offspring every 2-5 years.
Did you know that:
- Wings not fins - Some Rays swim by flapping their wings in a bird-like motion, while others contort their entire bodies to glide through the water. The giant manta ray is the world’s largest ray with a wingspan of up to 8.80 meters.
- Believed to have medicinal properties - Rays are particularly valued for their gill rakers, which are traded internationally and believed by some to have medicinal properties (this has been scientifically proven to be utter non-sense).
- Deep diver - Giant manta rays typically hoover around the surface but they're capable of diving to depths exceeding 1,000 meters. No one quite knows why they sometimes take such deep dives.
- Manta’s can live to be 40 years old - But most species of ray live between 15-25 years.
- Steve Irwin’s death - After the tragic death of adventurer Steve Irwin, rays have gotten a bad reputation. However, these creatures are actually very friendly and even playful. They only attack when they feel threatened.
- Rays don’t use their eyes to find prey - Instead, like sharks, they use electro-sensors called Ampullae of Lorenzini.
- Electric rays - Got their name for their ability to generate and discharge electric current. Depending on the species, these fish can discharge currents anywhere between 8 and 220 volts!
- Explosive - One of the largest electric rays is the Atlantic Torpedo, often reaching 1.80 meters and 90 kgs. Did you know that the torpedo missile was named after this fish?
- Watch out for seals - Rays’ main natural predators are sharks, seals, and sea lions.
- Excellent at hide & seek - Their sandy colouring and mottled skin gives rays the perfect camouflage for burrowing into the sand. Once they’re settled in, rays will lie in wait to pounce on their prey.
Why are manta rays threatened?
- Commercial fishing - Rays are both targeted and caught as by-catch.
- Destruction of their habitat - Pollution of their water and plastic waste directly affects their health, and they are particularly vulnerable to getting entangled in fishing nets.
- Global warming - Water acidification and rising temperatures can affect the availability of plankton, rays’ main food source.
- Collisions with ships - Can result in death or injury. Collisions often happen in areas where several manta rays gather, and rise to the surface to feed.
- Unregulated tourism - Can scare manta’s away from their natural feeding grounds.
How can you help manta rays?
- Follow "Ray Safe Handling and Release Guidelines” - Manta rays are incidentally captured in a variety of commercial and recreational fisheries. Because fisherman may accidentally catch rays while fishing for other species, safe handling and release guidelines have been developed to reduce injury and harm to them.
- Report a sighting - If you encounter a giant manta ray email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos are very helpful and can be used to identify individual manta rays. Also, if you can report where you saw the manta, how big it was and what condition it was in—this information will help the NOAA learn more about giant manta ray movement patterns and habitat use.
- Wildlife Viewing - Be responsible when viewing rays in the wild; observe them from a safe distance. Never entice manta rays to approach you. Disturbing manta rays may interrupt their ability to perform critical functions such as feeding, breeding, resting, and socializing.
- Participate in coastal clean-up events - Reduce plastic use; Small plastic debris (“microplastics”) are ingested by manta rays, harming this threatened species. Properly dispose of fishing gear; Entanglement in ocean trash (e.g., ropes & netting, packing material, garbage) can cause injuries to giant manta rays.
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