While diving off the coast of Thailand, a group of adventurers were treated to a sight like no other: A giant manta ray, swimming around near the depths of the ocean. Captured on film, the moment has received tens of thousands of views since it surfaced online earlier this month. The footage is particularly spectacular because of its clarity, as the image quality truly allows a detailed view of the mysterious animal.
The giant manta ray, or oceanic ray, is different from the standard manta ray that most people are familiar with. Discovered less than a decade ago according to National Geographic, oceanic manta rays are distinguished from reef manta rays, another name for the normal-sized variety, in a few different ways. The oceanic ray can grow up to a 23-foot wing span, while the reef ray averages 10 feet, Manta Trust reports. The larger species has much wider migratory tendencies, and can be found in a variety of different waters.
Like its smaller cousin, however, the oceanic ray is not equipped with a barbed sting, unlike stingrays. This makes it a mostly harmless animal for divers to be around – and while it reportedly fears human contact, according to National Geographic, the animal is not considered a threat.
Surprisingly, oceanic manta rays have been found to be potentially very intelligent, self-aware animals. New Scientist reports that researchers at the University of South Florida who had placed oceanic manta rays in a tank equipped with a mirror seemed aware that the mirror was showing them a reflection of themselves, rather than another living creature. "The behavioral responses strongly imply the ability for self-awareness, especially considering that similar, or analogous, behavioral responses are considered proof of self-awareness in great apes," Csilla Ari, a USF biologist, told New Scientist.
The IUCN Red List classifies oceanic rays as vulnerable. National Geographic explains this is due to the massive value of their gills in Guangzhou, China. Manta rays are only capable of reproducing every two to five years, and give birth to only one pup at a time, which puts them in severe danger of massive losses in population.
Watch the video below for a look at this majestic animal, and make sure to share it with your friends on Facebook.