Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying mobula ray soaring high off the Mexican shore.
Every May, when the wind is calm, a strange popping sound resonates across the southern beaches of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. It sounds as though someone is cooking popcorn on an industrial scale. But the source of this sound is far more spectacular.
Soaring high above the waves as easily as a bird, mobula rays appear perfectly designed for this astonishing aerobatic display.
Closely related to sharks but with long, flat bodies and wing-like pectoral fins, they are ideally suited to swooping through the water yet seem equally at home in the air, so much so that they have earned the name “flying rays”.
Mobula rays can reach heights of more than two metres (6ft 6ins), remaining airborne for several seconds, but their landings are much less graceful, creating a loud bang as they belly-flop back into the sea.
Hundreds of mobula rays congregate in the Sea of Cortes every year. In one of the most spectacular wildlife performances on Earth, they can be seen leaping from the water, sometimes three or four at a time and reaching a height of nine feet or more above the water, before returning to earth with a loud splash.
Mobula ray is a genus of ray in the family Myliobatidae (eagle rays). Their appearance is similar to that of manta rays, which are in the same family. Species of this genera are often collectively referred to as “flying mobula” or simply “flying rays”, due to their propensity for breaching, sometimes in a spectacular manner.
They are very close relatives of the shark. Ironically, sharks as well as orcas are their main predators. They are also closely related to the stingray but they don’t have a stinger.
The smallest species of Manta Ray is the Mobula Diabolis. It is only about 2 feet in length.
The Ray is classified as a fish. It is one of the largest and it continues to be one that we know the least about.
They don’t have a skeleton that is made from bone.
The Ray doesn’t have a nose.
They are the only jawed vertebrates that also have novel limbs.
The movement of the fins through the water is very similar to that of a bird flapping its wings.
While the Ray has many rows of sharp teeth, they aren’t used for eating. Instead they have a filtering system
They are extremely fast swimmers and also considered to be one of the most graceful as they move around. If you don’t look quickly though one can be gone before you realize it was there.
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.
Mobula rays leap spectacularly from the sea when they gather in large groups, but scientists still don’t know why they do it.
Source: BBC Earth
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