Japanese Devilray, Mobula mobular (Bonnaterre 1788)

Other Names: Devilray, Giant Devil Ray, Giant Devilray, Japanese Devilray, Spinetail Devilray, Spinetail Mobula

A male Japanese Devilray, Mobula mobular (disc width ~ 200 cm), in the shallows at Brighton Beach, Port Phillip, Victoria, 14 April 2020. Source: Maddi / Marine Response, Zoos Victoria. License: All rights reserved


A large bluish-black devilray with two white crescent-shaped patches on the shoulders in juveniles and newborns (fading in adults), a white underside often with dark patches, a prominent white tip on the dorsal fin, and the inside of the mouth dark. The cephalic lobes are short with black tips, a silvery-grey inner surface, and a white outer surface and side behind the eye. The Japanese Devilray has a subterminal mouth beneath the head, a small white-tipped dorsal fin and a short serrated caudal spine positioned near the base of the very long whip-like tail.

In Australia, this species was previously known as Mobula japanica, a junior synonym (White et al. 2017).

Four male Japanese Devilrays (aka Giant Devilray) filmed pursuing a heavily pregnant female in the Poor Knights Islands, northern New Zealand, March 2017.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Mobula mobular in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 Apr 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/1835

Japanese Devilray, Mobula mobular (Bonnaterre 1788)

More Info


Recorded in Australian waters from off Fraser Island, Queensland, to off Montague Island, New South Wales, with a juvenile found near the shore at Brighton in Port Phillip, Victoria, April 2020.

Elsewhere, this species is circumglobal in warm seas in coastal and offshore waters. While the Japanese Devilray has been recorded diving to a depth of 1,112 m, the species mostly occurs above a depth of 50 m.


Disc broad, short, head very short; rostral margin not deeply concave; anterior profile of disc wings straight or slightly convex; tail very long, wiry, whip-like, about equal to or longer than disc width (if undamaged), with a stinging spine in most individuals. Mouth broad, subterminal; upper and lower tooth bands ~75% mouth width; denticles dense; brachial filter plates separate on gill arches, 85-95 plates per arch, 18-31 lobes on each plate, terminal lobe leaf-shaped with longitudinal ridges. Dorsal fin small with a rounded white tip and a concave rear margin; short, serrated caudal spine covered in black tissue usually present behind dorsal fin.


Male disc width to 310 cm; female disc width to 240 cm; disc width at birth about 85 cm; adult weight about 115 kg.


Filter feeder - feeds mostly on planktonic crustaceans such as krill, euphasids and copepods, along with small fishes.


Males mature at 200–220 cm disc width (DW) and females mature at 215–240 cm disc width (DW). Reproduction is aplacental matrotrophic (embryos nourished by both yolk and the mother​) with a gestation period of 12 months. Female generally produce a single large pup (though two per litter occur occasionally) of 90–160 cm DW. The reproductive cycle is 1–3 years, with resting periods between pregnancies in some years. Female age-at-maturity is estimated as 5–6 years and maximum age estimated as 20 years.
In March 2017, a mating train comprising a full-term pregnant female and up to four males was observed over a period of 147 minutes in the Poor Knights Islands, Northern New Zealand (Duffy & Tindale 2017).


Mobulids are widely used for their meat, skin, liver oil, and gill plates. The Giant Devilray is a large component of targeted fisheries and a bycatch of many small- and large-scale fisheries in many parts of its range. Much of this catch is unreported or aggregated as Mobula species (Marshall et al. 2019). The gill plates are highly valued in the Traditional Chines Medicine industry.


IUCN: Endangered
Mobula species were listed on Appendix II of CITES in 2016.


In Australia, this species was previously known as Mobula japanica.

Species Citation

Raia mobular Bonnaterre 1788, Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique des trois règnes de la nature... Ichthyologie: 5. Type locality: Montredon, near Marseille, France, western Mediterranean Sea.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia, see also Mobula japanica (a junior synonym)

Japanese Devilray, Mobula mobular (Bonnaterre 1788)


Boeseman, M. 1947. Revision of the fishes collected by Burger and van Siebold in Japan. Zoologische Mededelingen (Leiden) 28: 1-242 pls 1-5 (as Mobula japanica)

Bonnaterre, J.P. 1788. Tableau Encyclopédique et Méthodique des trois Règnes de la Nature. Ichthyologie. Paris. pp. 1-215, 102 pls

Canese, S., Cardinali, A., Romeo, T., Giusti, M., Salvati, E., Angiolillo, M. & Greco, S. 2011. Diving behaviour of Giant Devil ray in the Mediterranean Sea. Endangered Species Research 14: 171-176.

Compagno, L.J.V. & Last, P.R. 1999. Mobulidae. In: K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. p. 1524-1529. (as Mobula japanica and M. mobular)

Croll, D.A., Dewar, H., Dulvy, N.K., Fernando, D., Francis, M.P., Galván-Magaña, F., Hall, M., Heinrichs, S., Marshall, A., McCauley, D., Newton, K.M., Notarbartolo-Di-Sciara, G., O'Malley, M., O'Sullivan, J., Poortvliet, M., Roman, M., Stevens, G., Tershy, B.R. & White, W.T. 2016. Vulnerabilities and fisheries impacts: the uncertain future of manta and devil rays. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26(3): 562-575 https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2591

Croll, D.A., Newton, K.M., Weng, K., Galvan-Magana, F., O’Sullivan, J. & Dewar, H. 2012. Movement and habitat use by the spine-tail devil ray in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 465: 193-200. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09900

Couturier, L.I.E., Marshall, A.D., Jaine, F.R.A., Kashiwagi, T., Pierce, S.J., Townsend, K.A., Weeks, S.J., Bennet, M.B. & Richardson, A.J. 2012. Biology, ecology and conservation of the Mobulidae. Journal of Fish Biology 80: 1075-1119 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03264.x

Cox, G. & M. Francis, 1997. Sharks and rays of New Zealand. Canterbury Univ. Press, Univ. of Canterbury. 68 pp. (as Mobula japanica)

Cuevas-Zimbrón, E., Sosa-Nishizaki, O., Pérez-Jiménez, J. & O’Sullivan. 2013. An analysis of the feasibility of using caudal vertebrae for ageing the spinetail devilray, Mobula japanica (Müller and Henle, 1841). Environmental Biology of Fishes 96(8): 907-914, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-012-0086-2. (as Mobula japanica)

Duffy, C.A.J.  2015. 34 Family Myliobatidae. pp. 201-204 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. 2015. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576.

Duffy, C.A.J. &  & Tindale, S.C. 2018. First observation of the courtship behaviour of the giant devil ray Mobula mobular (Myliobatiformes: Mobulidae), New Zealand Journal of Zoology 45(4): 387-394, https://doi.org/10.1080/03014223.2017.1410850

Dulvy, N.K., Pardo, S.A., Simpfendorfer, C.A. & Carlson, J.K. 2014. Diagnosing the dangerous demography of manta rays using life history theory.  PeerJ 2:e400 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.400

Francis, M.P. & Jones, E.G. 2017. Movement, depth distribution and survival of spinetail devilrays (Mobula japanica) tagged and released from purse-seine catches in New Zealand. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 27(1): 219-236 https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2641

Freund, E.V., Dewar, H. & Croll, D.A. 2000. Locomotor tracking of the spine-tailed devil ray, Mobula japanica. American Zoologist 40: 1020–1020.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) (as Mobula japanica)

Kyne, P.M., Johnson, J.W., Courtney, A.J. & Bennett, M.B. 2005. New biogeographical information on Queensland chrondrichthyans. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 50(2): 321-327

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp. (as Mobula japanica)

Last, P.R. & White, W.T. 2016. Mobulidae. pp. 741-749 in Last, P.R., White, W.T., Carvalho, M.R. de, Séret, B., Stehmann, M.F.W. & Naylor, G.J.P. (eds). Rays of the World. Clayton South, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 790 pp.

Lawson, J.M., Fordham, S.V, O'Malley, M.P., Davidson, L.N.K., Walls, R.H.L., Heupel, M.R., Stevens, G., Fernando, D., Budziak, A., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Ender, I., Francis, M.P., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. & Dulvy, N.K. 2017. Sympathy for the devil: a conservation strategy for devil and manta rays. PeerJ 5:e3027 : https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3027.  

Lewis, S.A., Setiasih, N., Dharmadi, Fahmi, O’Malley, M.P., Campbell, S.J., Yusuf, M. & Sianipar, A. 2015. Assessing Indonesian manta and devil ray populations through historical landings and fishing community interviews. PeerJ Preprints 6:e1334v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.1334v1

Marshall, A., Barreto, R., Carlson, J., Fernando, D., Fordham, S., Francis, M.P., Herman, K., Jabado, R.W., Liu, K.M., Rigby, C.L. & Romanov, E. 2019. Mobula mobular. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T110847130A110847142. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T110847130A110847142.en. Downloaded on 14 April 2020.

Michael, S.W. 2005. Reef Sharks and Rays of the World: A Guide to Their Identification, Behaviour, and Ecology. ProStar Publications, Maryland. (as Mobula japanica and M. mobular)

Müller, J. & Henle, F.G.J. 1841. Systematische Beschreibung der Plagiostomen. Berlin : Veit & Co. pp. 103-200 pls. (as Cephaloptera japanica)

Notarbartolo-di-Sciara, G. 1987. A revisionary study of the genus Mobula Rafinesque, 1810 (Chondrichthyes: Mobulidae) with the description of a new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 91(1): 1-91. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1096-3642.1987.tb01723.x (as Mobula japanica)

O'Malley, M.P., Townsend, K.A., Hilton, P., Heinrichs, S. & Stewart, J.D. 2017. Characterization of the trade in manta and devil ray gill plates in China and South-east Asia through trader surveys. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 27(2): 394-413 https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2670

Poortvliet, M., Olsen, J.L., Croll, D.A., Bernardi, G., Newton, K., Kollias, S., O’Sullivan, J., Fernando, D., Stevens, G., Magaña, F.G., Seret, B., Wintner, S. & Hoarau, G. 2015. A dated molecular phylogeny of manta and devil rays (Mobulidae) based on mitogenome and nuclear sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 83: 72-85, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2014.10.012.

Rambahiniarison, J.M., Lamoste, M.J., Rohner, C.A., Murray, R., Snow, S., Labaja, J., Araujo, G. & Ponzo, A. 2018. Life history, growth, and reproductive biology of four mobulid species in the Bohol Sea, Philippines. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 269, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00269

Sampson, L., Galván-Magaña, F., De Silva-Dávila, R., Aguíñiga-García, S. & O’Sullivan, J.B. 2010. Diet and trophic position of the devil rays Mobula thurstoni and Mobula japanica as inferred from stable isotope analysis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of  the United Kingdom 90: 969–976, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315410000548

Stewart, J.D., Jaine, F.R.A., Armstrong, A.J., Armstrong, A.O., Bennett, M.B., Burgess, K.B., Couturier, L.I.E., Croll, D.A., Cronin, M.R., Deakos, M.H., Dudgeon, C.L., Fernando, D., Froman, N., Germanov, E.S., Hall, M.A., Hinojosa-Alvarez, S., Hosegood, J.E., Kashiwagi, T., Laglbauer, B.J.L., Lezama-Ochoa, N., Marshall, A.D., McGregor, F., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Palacios, M.D., Peel, L.R., Richardson, A.J., Rubin, R.D., Townsend, K.A., Venables, S.K. & Stevens, G.M.W. 2018. Research priorities to support effective manta and devil ray conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science 5:314, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00314.

Ward-Paige, C.A., David, B. & Worm, B. 2013. Global population trends and human use patterns of Manta and Mobula rays. PLoS ONE 8(9): e74835. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074835.  

White, W.T., Corrigan, S., Yang, S., Henderson, A.C., Bazinet, A.L., Swofford, D.L. & Naylor, G.J.P. 2017. Phylogeny of the manta and devilrays (Chondrichthyes, mobulidae) with an updated taxonomic arrangement for the family. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 182(1): 50-75. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx018.  

White, W.T., Giles, J., Dharmadi & Potter, I.C. 2006. Data on the bycatch fishery and reproductive biology of mobulid rays (Myliobatiformes) in Indonesia. Fisheries Research 82: 65-73, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2006.08.008.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37041002

Conservation:IUCN Endangered; CITES Listed

Danger:Venomous spine on tail

Depth:0-1112m (usually above 50m)


Max Size:Disc width 520 cm

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map