Although not commonly seen in Hawai‘i, this manta ray was spotted by divers on July 9, 2013 at Three Tables.
photos courtesy Charlie Kline – sandandcphotos.com
Manta rays have wingspans extending up to 30-feet and weigh as much as 3,000 pounds. They are easily differentiated from eagle rays by their mandibles, the two “flappers” that protrude from the mouth. These mandibles help them gather free-floating plankton, which is their primary food. Eagle rays have a parrot-shaped mouth for scooping crustaceans out of the sand.
Each ray has a unique collection of spots on their underbellies; this makes it easy to identify individual animals. Their underbelly is white, and all black on their topside.
Typically a pelagic creature (found in the deeper open waters) they come into reefs and shallower waters to visit reef ‘cleaning stations’ where small fish, like wrasse and angelfish pick parasites from the manta ray’s skin.
Manta rays have few natural predators because of their size. Only orcas and large sharks (such as tiger sharks), successfully hunt these large rays.