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Black manta ray Birostris by Joost van Uffelen

Black manta at the Socorros

The Boiler is the hotspot at the Socorros for diving with the biggest Manta Ray species in the world, the Manta Birostris. During our dives we also encountered a more rare color variant, a beautiful melanistic manta ray.

Arrived at the divesite we jumped in as the last two divers to allow for some extra bottomtime without the other divers, because they would have to surface earlier. It was sometimes difficult during the week to leave divers out of my frames since the groups would meet underwater or other divers from our group would swim into the shots. So, to avoid this, jumping in last was the right thing to do.

Now, the Manta Birostris seem to come in two color variations, the chevron manta (see earlier blog post for pictures) and the black manta. Color variations on the belly and the back of the manta´s make for the difference between the two. As about 30% of the population seems to consist of the black manta´s they are more difficult to find. The Socorros seems to have a relatively high degree compared to other Manta Birostris populations though.

I was ecstactic when a black manta showed up in between the about 8 other giant manta rays as we neared the end of our dive. She seemed however quite shy and would not come too close. We chose to swim to the other side of the rock as most divers were already on their way up.

Just as we rounded the corner I could spot the black manta again while she was being cleaned by Angel fishes on that side of the rock. Good stuff. Now she just needed to be confident to come over for a look.

In the end she gained trust and flew in close enough for her photo session.

The pelagic manta ray (Manta Birostris) is the biggest living ray species in the world. It can reach lengths of over 7m from wingtip to wingtip, weighing up to 1400 kg's!

Different from their reef cousins (Manta Alfredi) they tend to migrate long distances across the vast blue ocean rather than sticking to the reefs. 

Only in 2009 the pelagic manta genus was split from the reef manta indicating how little we actually know about these animals. These are gentle, curious animals listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Population sizes have been dropping considerably since they are sought after as a source of food, shark bait and for Chinese bogus medicinal purposes. 

Recently Indonesia set an example by placing a ban on catching both manta species. Indonesia wants to protect their remaining populations as the value of a living manta in (dive)tourism is deemed way higher than a dead one shipped to be used in traditional medicine.

The remora attached to the belly of this manta ray was previously thought to be feeding on manta droppings (I've seen them feeding on turtle feces in the red sea as well).

Later research has proven that remora actually use the manta as a taxi rides. They use them to be brought to the food!

It was such an incredible pleasure watching these giants float in liquid space.

joostvanuffelen's picture
About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...

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