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What’s the Difference Between Manta Rays and Stingrays?

What’s the Difference Between Manta Rays and Stingrays?

Manta rays are fascinating creatures, but they’re often mixed up with the stingray. They're closely related and look similar are first glance, but there are actually big differences separating the two.

1. Manta rays don’t have barbs.

The most obvious difference between manta rays and stingrays is the barb at the end of stingrays’ tails. Depending on the type of stingray, the barb can have serrated edges and venom, which can kill even a human. Stingrays don’t use the barbs to hunt; they’re a defense mechanism when threatened by predators. 

2. They have different diets.  

Manta rays use their gill rakers to filter out zooplankton from the water. Despite their enormous size, they only feed on these tiny organisms, and not fish. 

Stingrays, on the other hand, feed on much larger animals. They’re known to eat clams, sea worms, small fish, shrimp, and squid. Stingrays hunt by covering themselves in the sand at the ocean floor, camouflaging themselves from their prey. Since their mouths are on the bottom of their bodies, they’re also able to swim just above the sand and eat prey they come across. 

3. Stingrays have an electromagnetic sense. 

Since stingrays have to search for their prey instead of filtering the water, they need to be able to find it easily. Stingrays can sense the electrical currents of their prey, even when they’re buried in the sand. 

4. Stingrays live in both marine and freshwater environments.

Both manta rays and stingrays can be found in all across the ocean in warm regions, but only stingrays can also be found in freshwater. The freshwater stingray lives in the Amazon and only grow to about 18 inches across. Despite their small size, they are responsible for more human casualties than any other Amazonian species because of their barbs.

5. Manta rays can be much larger. 

Giant manta rays can have wing spans more than 20 feet across. But, there is one species of stingrays that reach similar sizes: the giant freshwater stingray. They’re found in Greater Mekong can grow to more than 16 feet across and weigh 1,300 lbs! 

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