Manta rays are enormous, graceful, and typically solitary sea animals that aggregate to feed and mate. The largest ray species, manta rays can measure up to 23-feet long, have a 29-foot wingspan, and weigh over 5,000 pounds. Manta rays are gentle giants that prefer plankton over fish.
As filter feeders, manta rays swim with their mouths wide open and use special structures in their gills, called gill rakers, to strain plankton out of the water column. This method of feeding makes plastic ingestion an inescapable and potentially deadly reality for these unique creatures.
Commercial fishing also poses a significant threat. Entanglement, bycatch, and poaching for the illegal gill-plate trade have sent manta ray populations into a downward spiral. Climate change, habitat loss, boat strikes, and unregulated tourism also have a negative impact on manta ray populations.
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