Manta Ray Feeding
What do Manta Rays Eat?
If you observe the feeding habits of the Manta Ray you will quickly see that they are filter
eaters. This process allows them to take in everything in the water and then it is filtered. The water is
passed back out through their gills. The food that they will consume remains in the body. There are plates
along the gills that trap the food inside of the mouth so that only the water passes back out.
The primary food source for the Manta Ray is plankton which are various organisms in the water.
They include bacteria, plants, and small animals. They also consume crabs if they are found in the natural
habitat of the Manta Ray. Shrimp and a variety of small fish help to complete the diet for them. They
aren’t picky and will consume such items that they come into contact with.
Many hours each day are dedicated to the feeding process. A full grown adult can consume up to
60 pounds of food every single day. The Manta Ray moves along the water extremely slowly. This allows them to
take in a great deal of water and food that is filtered properly. The water goes back out through the slits
in the sides of their heads called gills. The food is then pushed down into the stomach.
You will notice that there are cephalic lobes on the sides of the head. They help direct food
into the mouth. The mouth is located on the top of the head instead of the bottom. It is believed that the
Manta Ray remembers the best feeding spots and so they will return to them on a regular
They have very distinct movements during feeding. They tend to move forward in a straight line.
This seems weird to observers, especially if there is food supplies to the right or left of them. However,
this slow but meticulous pattern works well for them and allows them to get the daily fill of food that their
Generally the Manta Ray will feed at night when they have the best chance of finding enough
food. However, they have been seen feeding during the day in some areas. They are very intelligent animals so
they are able to adapt their feeding habits to what is readily available. Some may be hunting day and night
and this is as common indicator that they are struggling to find enough food to survive on.
You will often find the Manta Ray feeding around the coral reefs though. These areas tend to
offer them a great deal of the foods that they love. Large amounts of food can be filtered through their
bodies in a short period of time. Therefore they are going to go to the locations where they find the most
Research also shows that they seem to be able to remember the best feeding grounds around them
too. They will return to them again and again. When they find that those rich resources have run low they
will do all they can to find other locations that benefit them just as well.
The unique feeding habit of the Manta Ray allows these animals to continue to evolve and to
survive despite changes to their natural environment. One of the conservation efforts in place is to make
sure they have enough food to survive on. They generally do well but with humans polluting both the air and
the water it can be difficult at times for them to find adequate food supplies.