Giant Manta Ray, Mobula birostris (Walbaum 1792)

Other Names: Australian Devilray, Chevron Manta, Devilfish, Giant Manta, Oceanic Manta, Pacific Manta Ray, Pelagic Manta

A Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris, in Thailand. Source: Jon Hanson / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY Attribution-ShareAlike


The Giant Manta Ray is the largest living ray. Mantas use the large flaps on either side of the head to direct zooplankton and small fishes into their wide mouth.

In many parts of the world, Manta rays are being overfished - mostly for their gill rakers, which are dried and sold as Asian medicinal products.

In publications prior to the revision of the family Mobulidae (White et al. 2017) Mobula birostris was known as Manta birostris.

Giant Manta Rays at Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.

Giant Manta Rays filmed in Australia.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Mobula birostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

Giant Manta Ray, Mobula birostris (Walbaum 1792)

More Info


Widespread, although relatively uncommon in Australian waters; also Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal - usually offshore, often around oceanic islands, sometimes coastal, and most common in tropical waters.

Giant Manta Rays aggregate around Ningaloo Reef during autumn and winter.


Grows to a disc width (DW) of at least 7 metres, and possibly to more than 9 metres.

Females mature at 410-430 cm DW

Males mature at 350-410 cm DW


Manta rays have a broad mouth at the end of the head with a single band of minute teeth in the upper jaw. They have two cephalic lobes on the front of their heads that help direct water flow into the mouth. Mantas have gills modified into complex sieving plates through which filter plankton from the water. 
Burgess et al. (2016) found that Giant Manta Rays off Ecuador feed in surface waters, along with the mesopelagic zone.


Giant Manta Ray populations have suffered from over-fishing as these slow-swimming giants are an easy target.

Mantas are targeted in many parts of their range, and almost all of the fish is used. Their gill rakers, which are thought to reduce blood toxins, are increasingly being traded in the lucrative Traditional Chinese Medicine Industry.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Listed Migratory species
  • IUCN Red List : Vulnerable
  • CITES Listed : Appendix II
  • Similar Species

    Differs from Manta alfredi in size, coloration, morphometric measurements, and in having a caudal spine in a post-dorsal protuberance (Marshall et al., 2009).


    The specific name birostris refers to the two horn-like cephalic lobes: bi- (= two) and rostrum (= snout).

    Species Citation

    Raja birostris Walbaum, 1792. Petri Artedi renovati 3: 535. Type locality: Unknown


    Bray, D.J. 2020


    Australian Faunal Directory

    Giant Manta Ray, Mobula birostris (Walbaum 1792)


    Alexander, R.L. 1996. Evidence of brain-warming in the mobulid rays, Mobula tarapacana and Manta birostris (Chondrichthyes: Elasmobranchii: Batoidea: Myliobatiformes). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 118: 151-164.

    Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

    Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C.& Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2, 284 pp.

    Bancroft, E.N. 1829. On the fish known in Jamaica as the sea devil (Cephalopholis manta). Zoological Journal London 4: 444-457

    Booda, L. 1984. Manta ray wings, shark meat posing as scallops. Sea Technology 25(11): 71.

    Burgess KB, Couturier LIE, Marshall AD, Richardson AR, Weeks SJ, Bennett MR. 2016. Manta birostris, predator of the deep? Insight into the diet of the giant manta ray through stable isotope analysis  R. Soc. open sci. 2016 3 160717; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160717.

    Clark, T.B. (2002) Population structure of Manta birostris from the Pacific Islands and Atlantic Oceans. Masters thesis, Texas A&M University.

    Coles, R.J. 1916. Natural history notes on the devil-fish, Manta birostris (Walbaum) and Mobula olfersi (Müller). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 35: 649-657.

    Compagno, L.J.V. 1999. Systematics and body form. Pp 1-42. In: W.C. Hamlett (ed.) Sharks, Skates, and Rays: the Biology of Elasmobranch Fishes. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

    Compagno, L.J.V. & Last, P.R. 1999. Families Gymnuridae, Myliobatidae, Rhinopteridae, Mobulidae. pp. 1505-1529 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 1397-2068 pp.

    Couturier LIE, Jaine FRA, Kashiwagi T. 2014. First photographic records of the giant manta ray Manta birostris off eastern Australia. PeerJ PrePrints 2: e572v1

    Duffy, C.A.J. & Abbott, D. 2003. Sightings of mobulid rays from northern New Zealand, with confirmation of the occurrence of Manta birostris in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37: 715-721.

    Graham, R.T., Witt, M.J., Castellanos, D.W., Remolina, F., Godley, B.J. &Hawkes, L.A. 2012. Satellite tracking of manta rays highlights challenges to their conservation. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36834.

    Homma, K., Maruyama, T., Itoh, T., Ishihara, H. & Uchida, S. 1999. Biology of the manta ray, Manta birostris Walbaum, in the Indo- Pacific. In: Seret, B. & Sire, J.Y. (eds) Indo-Pacific fish biology: proceedings of the fifth international conference on Indo-Pacific fishes, Noumea, 1997. Ichthyological Society of France, France, pp. 209–216.

    Kashiwagi, T., Marshall, A.D., Bennett, M.B. & Ovenden, J.R. 2011. Habitat segregation and mosaic sympatry of the two species of manta ray in the Indian and Pacific Oceans: Manta alfredi and M. birostris. Marine Biodiversity Records 4: e53 (8 pages) [DOI:10.1017/S1755267211000479]

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls.

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

    Marshall, A.D. 2009. Biology and population ecology of Manta birostris in southern Mozambique. PhD Thesis, University of Queensland.

    Marshall, A.D., Bennett, M.B., Kodja, G., Hinojosa-Alvarez, S., Galvan-Magana, F., Harding, M., Stevens, G. & Kashiwagi, T. 2011. Manta birostris. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <>. Downloaded on 07 August 2012.

    Marshall, A.D., Compagno, L.J.V. & Bennett, M.B. 2009. Redescription of genus Manta with resurrection of Manta alfredi (Krefft, 1868) (Chondrichthyes; Myliobatoidei; Mobulidae). Zootaxa 2301: 1–28.

    Marshall, A.D., Pierce, S.J. & Bennett, M.B. 2008. Morphological measurements of manta rays (Manta birostris) with a description of a foetus from the east coast of Southern Africa. Zootaxa 1717: 24-30

    Mourier, J. 2012. Manta rays in the Marquesas Islands: first records of Manta birostris in French Polynesia and most easterly location of Manta alfredi in the Pacific Ocean, with notes on their distribution. Journal of Fish Biology doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03449.x

    O’Shea, O.R., Kingsford, M.J. & Seymour, J. 2010. Tide-related periodicity of manta rays and sharks to cleaning stations on a coral reef. Marine and Freshwater Research 61, 65-73.

    Rubin, R. 2002. Manta Rays: not all black and white. Shark Focus 15: 4–5.

    Venables, S.K., Marshall, A.D., Germanov, E.S., Perryman, R.J.Y., Tapilatu, R.F., et al. 2019. It's not all black and white: investigating colour polymorphism in manta rays across Indo-Pacific populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society B

    Walbaum, J.J. 1792. Petri Artedi renovati. Part 3. Petri Artedi sueci genera Piscium in quibus systema totum ichthyologiae. Grypeswaldiae 723 pp. 3 pls 

    White, W.T., Corrigan, S., Yang, L., 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 2017 zlx018. doi: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx018 Open access

    White, W.T. & Dharmadi. 2007. Species and size compositions and reproductive biology of rays (Chondrichthyes, Batoidea) caught in target and non-target fisheries in eastern Indonesia. Journal of Fish Biology 70: 1809-1837.

    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.

    Yano, K., Sato, F. & Takahashi, T. 1999. Observations of the mating behavior of the manta ray, Manta birostris, at the Ogasawara Islands, Japan. Ichthyological Research 46: 289–296.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37041004

    Conservation:EPBC Act - Migratory species

    Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable; CITES Listed

    Depth:0-200 m

    Habitat:Reef associated, pelagic

    Max Size:910 cm disc width

    Species Image Gallery

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map