Manta rays are some of the ocean’s most majestic animals. They are found in many of the world’s tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters.
These gentle giants can grow to be as large as 7m (15ft) long, and although they may look intimidating, they are not dangerous to humans.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at how Manta rays give birth, and more specifically answer do manta rays lay eggs?
No, manta rays do not lay eggs. They are ovoviviparous, which means they produce live young that are hatched from an egg inside their mothers and therefore give live birth.
How Do Manta Rays Give Birth?
Unlike many fish species that lay eggs and are externally fertilized, Manta rays actually don’t lay eggs and are internally fertilized.
When ready, they give live birth to their young which can be as large as 1 – 2 meters long and weigh as much as 40kg.
The female hoses her eggs for around 1 year, then the mothers swim to shallow waters and give birth to their young, usually under the cover of nightfall.
Due to Manta rays being cartilage and not bone, they are incredibly flexible. This gives the appearance that they are flying through the water, instead of swimming.
When born, the pups are rolled up tight like a burrito, with their wings wrapped around their bodies so they can be born.
Seconds after they are born, they find their bearings and their wings unfold and they spring into life ready to take on life and its many challenges.
How Do Manta Rays Reproduce?
Much of the Manta ray reproduction process is still very much a mystery, but we do know that they have a very slow reproduction rate.
Most Manta rays typically have a life expectancy of around 40 – 50 years old, with females not reaching sexual maturity until they are between 10 – 15 years old.
The starting point of the Manta ray reproduction process is called the “Manta-train”. This is because one female Manta tends to swim at the front, whilst followed by several male Manta rays.
Manta trains can be as large as twenty male Manta rays ranging from both young and old following one female.
These trains can last for weeks on end, but as courtship starts to progress, many male Manta rays will abandon the train.
The “last Manta standing” is usually the one that will inseminate the female, but it’s now known that a single male Manta can still impregnate females even after the train has ended.
Some male Manta rays have even been known to pursue already pregnant females, so it can become tricky to identify who the father of some Manta ray pups are, and often relies on a DNA test to definitively know for sure.
What Age Are Manta Rays Fertile?
The Manta ray’s fertility age is still unknown, but it is thought to be between the age of 10 – 15 when the rays reach sexual maturity.
However, there have been some instances where Manta rays as old as almost 50 years old have fallen pregnant, so it’s still up for debate as to when they stop being fertile.
It’s exciting to think that Manta could potentially be capable of having pups for a large part of their lives, and gives us home for the Manta ray population in the future.
How Many Babies Do Manta Rays Have?
A mother gives birth to usually one or two baby Manta rays at a time. When baby Manta rays are born, they have to be large enough to swim and learn how to feed right away.
These impressive animals are filter feeders that swim with their mouths open to feed on zooplankton, krill, and other small fish.
Baby Manta rays are born live and independent, meaning they are capable of feeding and fending for themselves from birth.
This gives them the best chances of survival and since they have very few natural predators they don’t need parental care as much as other species.
Manta rays have a long lifespan and can live up to 40-years old. However, their slow reproduction process and outside threats mean that the Giant Manta ray is currently endangered.
So, do Manta rays lay eggs? No, they are ovoviviparous which means instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young after carrying the fertilized egg for around one year.
This gives Manta ray pups the best chance of survival in the ocean and ensures that when they are born they are already grown and can be independent.
Mother Manta rays typically give birth to between one and two pups at a time but are not needed to stick around to parent their pups as the pups instinctively know how to feed.
The Manta ray’s fertility age is still a bit of a mystery, but what we do know is that they can be fertile when they reach sexual maturity but even until they are as old as 35 years old.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new today about Manta rays giving birth.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about Manta rays and other marine life.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.