What is a Manta Ray?

Dear friends, who have always wondered where my instagram-wordpress handle comes from, this is it:Manta_Ray_16x9.jpgPicture copyright Todd Aki, Getty Images

Manta rays are one of the largest species of ray species in the ocean, growing up to seven metres in width. The term ‘manta’ comes is Portuguese for ‘mantle’. They are classified with the Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays), a subclass of the Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish), and have one of the largest brains amongst all fishes. Due to the size of their forebrains (the part of the brain in fish associated with social behaviour, learning and memory), they are the first fish species discovered to exhibit self-awareness, implying higher order brain function. As an interview with marine biologist Dr Csilla Ari by Xray Magazine reveals:

“Those who have been fortunate enough to dive or snorkel with manta rays say that it is a very special experience and there is a special connection when these animals approach you. Many believe that they are capable of recognizing people and conspecifics, even after a long time period. They show interest and curiosity, they often voluntarily approach humans for no obvious reason, or even to ‘ask for help’ when they get entangled in fishing lines. It has happened to me multiple times while snorkeling with wild and also with the captive mantas, that they swam under me, repeatedly, many times, then slowed down and slowly, very gently lifted me up, almost completely out of the water for a few seconds. Then they slowly swam away. I strongly believe that they have well developed social behavior and communication.”

It has always been my ambition to one day swim with that greatest fish of the ocean, the whale shark. One day soon, i shall make a journey to swim with real-life manta rays too.

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