Manta Ray or Manta Birostris Hawaiian name: Hahalua
There are just over 150 manta rays residing on the Kona Coast having a home range of about 30 miles up and down the coastline. They are one of the the largest animals in the ocean- ranging from 2 to 20 feet wide. Most of the ones we see are 6 to 10 feet wide. Manta Rays are cousins to the shark. Both sharks and manta rays are made completely of cartilage they have no bones. So just as our noses and ears are extremely flexible, so are the manta rays.
Manta rays are completely harmless to humans. They do not have stingers on their tails like sting rays. While they do have teeth, they are almost hidden and do not use them, they cannot bite humans in any way. Manta rays are filter feeders and feed on plankton. They cruise through the water with their mouths wide open attempting to catch microscopic plankton in the ocean. They use brachial filters to catch the plankton and sift it out of the water- similar to how we use a colander to drain pasta. Mantas consume 2% of their body weight each day; that’s about 50 lbs of microscopic plankton for an average adult.
They have two fins on their heads, called cephalic lobes, which they use to push the plankton into their mouths. When they are not feeding, the cephalic lobes curl up, making them more streamlined in the water. They are very graceful and slow moving at night as they are trying to eat as much plankton as possible. They are actually capable of swimming over 15 mph. They swim near the surface propelling themselves by flapping their pectoral fins and sometimes jump or somersault completely out of the water. Manta Rays also have a sixth sense, that we as humans do not have, called electro-reception. Each manta ray has tiny nerve cells on their head that allows them to sense movement and objects in the water. This allows them to swim inches from us without actually touching us.