Manta Ray at Makahuena is the featured photograph for Week 12 of the Kauai Photo Challenge.
Manta Rays are some of the more elusive animals to find in the ocean around Kauai. Unlike other types of rays which hide in the sand on the ocean floor, mantas frequent the open ocean, usually near reefs or continental shelves where their preferred food is abundant. Mantas feed on zooplankton, microscopic animals that float or drift in currents. Mantas funnel water through their mouths as they swim, and rows of tiny plates, not teeth, sieve the food. Cephalic lobes on the sides of their heads, extensions of the pectoral fins, are used to channel water into the mouth; when the lobes are not in use they are coiled up and their appearance is why rays were once called ‘devil fish.’
Mantas bear their young in a process called aplacental viviparity; after mating, the eggs are retained in the female’s body. The young are born approximately 6 weeks after the eggs hatch. Sharks reproduce in this same way.
The skin of the manta is covered with a mucous coating, protecting the animals from infection. Swimmers and divers who touch mantas disturb this coating, which can allow bacteria or parasites to enter. They are highly susceptible to pollution. Mantas are not on the endangered list, but they are protected in Hawaii. The main cause in the decline of mantas worldwide is man; their gill rakers are used in many recipes and are purported to cure a variety of sicknesses. Sharks and killer whales prey on mantas as well.
Mantas are normally solitary swimmers, only grouping with others when they are sharing a food source or mating. Their social interactions are not understood. Scientists have also been unable to determine how they sleep. They are quite graceful in the water; moving their pectoral fins up and down gives them the appearance of flying, and their tails give them maneuverability – they have the ability to jump out of the water. Mantas do not generally bother people unless they feel threatened, and do not pose a threat to swimmers if they are nearby.
This photo was taken with a GoPro near Makahuena on Kauai.
If this is your first visit to the Kauai Photo Challenge, it is my way of sharing my pictures of Kauai while learning more about this beautiful island where I live. You are welcome to comment or share your own pictures.
Check out Week 11 of my challenge.
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Have a great week.