5 Types of Rays and How to Identify Them
The Maldives is home to an abundance of marine life and megafauna that come in all shapes and sizes. During your holiday at InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, you will have the chance to see the beauty of the ocean for yourself, whether walking down the boarded walkways, strolling along the beach, or indulging in a snorkelling adventure.
To help drive your curiosity, we have listed down some of our most frequently sighted Ray species to help you identify which one you are seeing during your snorkels in Maamunagau.
All rays are known as cartilaginous fish, as their entire skeleton is made up of cartilage instead of bones, evolving from sharks around 200 million years during the Jurassic period. Rays of today are identifiable by their flattened bodies and ‘wings’ that help them to move through the water. Just like all fish they breathe underwater by their gills with some having a special adaptation to rest on the sea-floor using their extra adaptation known as spiracles, located behind their eyes to pump water over their gills so they can still breathe while buried under the sand.
1. Manta Rays
The largest of all the rays, you will never see a manta ray smaller than 1.5m as this is the size at which they are born. Growing up to 4m when fully grown they are truly the gentle giants of our oceans. Manta rays have a large forward-facing mouth with unique appendages known as cephalic fins on the front of their head which help them funnel plankton-filled water through their specialised gill plates. If you see a manta ray near the surface of the water with its mouth open and cephalic fins unfurled, it is likely feeding and an amazing encounter to see whilst snorkelling, be sure not to disturb their natural behaviour and just peacefully observe them swim around you. Manta rays have unique spot pattern on their bellies which help researchers to identify them, if you have a photo find our resident manta biologist to find out who you have been swimming with.
2. Sting Rays
If you see a ray closer to the ocean floor or buried in the sand with a disc-shaped body this is most likely a sting ray. Using their specialised spiracles to keep pumping water over their gills while they breathe you may find a stingray camouflaging themselves from predators and taking rest while buried in the sand. Despite sting rays’ eyes being on the top of their head, their mouth is located under their belly, if you see a stingray creating a sand cloud around itself you may be seeing it hunting in the sand for crustaceans. Sting rays do have a barb on their tail which is used for defence, but as long as they are not threatened or disturbed, they pose no threat to humans.
3. Spotted Eagle Rays
These diamond-shaped beauties are commonly seen in the shallow waters of the water villas and lagoon areas of the resort, sometimes travelling alone or in small groups. Usually less than 1m in size, they are easily identifiable by their dark-coloured bodies with small white spots scattered across their back. Eagle rays have a distinctly shaped head and extended snout which they use for foraging in the sand when looking for food.
4. Ornate Eagle Rays
A rare phenomenon to see but anything is possible at InterContinental Maldives. Ornate eagle rays can grow up to 2.4m in wingspan and have the most beautiful distinct pattern of reticulate dark lines and rings on their dorsal side. The pattern on the back of an ornate eagle ray is unique to every individual allowing researchers to identify them. If you are lucky enough to see one of these rarities and can click a picture, please show it to our resident marine biologists for the chance to name it and contribute to our research.
Sometimes mistaken for a shark these animals are a wonderful sight to see and their unique shape makes them look like half sharks with their elongated bodies and dorsal fins, and half rays with their flattened heads and mouth position. Seen around our shallow lagoonal waters and reception area during the early morning or late evening. If you see a guitarfish while you are here, be sure to stop and watch these beautiful animals as they gracefully move through the water.
In 2014 the Maldives Government added all species of Rays to the list of protected species, making it illegal to capture, keep or harm any type of ray in the Maldives. The conservation of rays is incredibly important, and their protection helps to promote not only their value but also help to prevent the risk of extinction to their populations. At InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort we support swimming sustainably with any marine life we are lucky enough to encounter.