Mobula Rays Fly for Mates

Manta and mobula rays span the tropics of the world and are among the most captivating and charismatic of marine species. However, their survival is severely threatened by growing fisheries pressure driven by demand for the gill rakers that the animals use to filter feed.

The group of cartilaginous fish in the family Mobulidae (Mobulid rays) consists of two genera, Manta and Mobula, with two and nine species respectively1,2. All mobulid rays have diamond shaped bodies, wing-like pectoral fins used for propulsion, and five pairs of gill slits. They usually inhabit pelagic zones3,4.

Mobulids are often called “devil rays” because of the cephalic fins on the front of their heads that resemble “horns”. The cephalic fins unfurl and help guide water into their mouths, and modified gill features filter zooplankton and small fish, their primary food sources5-7.

The nine Mobula species range in size from the largest, Mobula mobular, which can reach 5.2 meters  to the smallest, Mobula eregoodootenkee, which averages only 1.1 meters.  Mobulas can be found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide.

Some Mobula species are range restricted, such as Mobula kuhlii and Mobula eregoodootenkee, found only in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans respectively. Other species, such as Mobula tarapacana and Mobula thurstoni, are thought to be circumglobal.