As we enter the start of summer, the magnificent manta is being sighted more frequently. It seems appropriate that this month’s creature feature stars this truly amazing creature. Not only is it visually stunning but a quick look at its physiology and mating habits exposes one of the sea’s most remarkable inhabitants.
Only surpassed in size by sharks and whales the manta can grow up to 8m long in some cases, with an average lifespan of 20 years.
As filter feeders, they use their rows of sharp teeth to filter water, consuming over 60 pounds of nutrient rich plankton, small shrimp and tiny fish per day. Food is directed by using the cephalic lobes at the side of their head, these are rolled up when swimming and spread out when they begin to search for food.
The maturity to reproduce is dictated by the size, not the age of the manta and the males have very aggressive mating behavior. There are many more male mantas than there are females, which may be a reason for their un-romantic approach. The male catches the fleeing female by the fins (often leaving behind scars), completes the necessary and then departs without even exchanging contact details! The female, now left as a single mother, carries the infant as an egg within her and this hatches before the pup emerges. At delivery time the female can be seen to breach the water repeatedly, reaching heights of up to 3m. Once born the babies can be up to 1m (this would explain the leaping!) and are expected to fend for their selves from the outset.
All manta’s have a protective mucous membrane covering their skin which can be broken by a mere touch from humans. Once broken the manta is exposed to many infections and diseases so look but don’t touch.
This incredible animal frequents the local dive sites so this holiday make sure you take advantage of our 2 dive morning, local boat and marvel at the manta yourself.