Fish Facts » Devil Ray
The Atlantic devil ray has forward facing cephalic fins giving it the appearance of having horns, a characteristic so distinct that it could not be confused with anything else except M. mobular. M. hypostoma is identified by its distinctive large body disc covered in small denticles and its long slender whip-like tail lacking a spine, the latter of which distinguishes it from its relative Mobula mobular. The head of the Atlantic devil ray is relatively small and narrow with teeth present in the lower and upper jaws. Atlantic devil rays have been described as black from above. Possible specimens observed off West Africa have been described as blue, however the validity of these specimens' identifications is in question. The outer cephalic fins, lower parts of the disc and the tail of the Atlantic devil ray are a pale yellowish or grayish white, which continues along the ventral surface.
The Atlantic devil ray is a pelagic wanderer. It is most often sighted near the surface over continental shelves, however at times this ray is known to come close to shore. Whether it roams deeper and/or ranges more of the Atlantic Ocean is unknown. The Atlantic devil ray occurs in seas, bays and gulfs, and along the Brazil shelf. It is also found along the northeastern and southeastern United States continental shelf and within the Canary currents. This ray has been known to travel alone, in small groups, or in larger schools.
Primarily a pelagic plankton feeder, the few stomach contents that have been examined of the Atlantic devil ray contained remnants of small crustaceans such as shrimp. Evidence of some schooling fish, such as striped salt water minnows found in abundance off the coast of North Carolina, were also found. When feeding, this ray often pushes its way through turtle grass using its cephalic fins to funnel food towards its mouth. When pursuing prey, devil rays have also been seen to rush up to a sandy strip (such as a beach or sandbar) and then swim off. When not feeding, the cephalic fins are tightly curled, giving the "horned" appearance.
Although the light red flesh of this species has been reported to have a very good flavor, too few rays are caught to be actively commercially fished. This may be due to low population numbers or to a more widespread range than currently known. For such reasons, M. hypostoma is unlikely to become popular commercially even if it were to become a more desirable food fish.
The disc of the Atlantic devil ray is about twice as wide as long, but this ray usually does not exceed 48 in (122 cm) in disc width. It has been suggested that females may mature at 42.1 in (107 cm) in disc width. Some have been recorded as being born as small as 21.7 in (55 cm) disc width, but most are larger at birth.
The Atlantic devil ray can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina south to northern Argentina. Sightings are common along the Atlantic coast of Florida and the surrounding areas (particularly in the summer), as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Antilles. This ray is known to inhabit tropical waters between 24-25º south and 34-35º north latitude. Unconfirmed reports suggest M. hypostoma may stray as far north as New Jersey, west to the eastern Atlantic coast, and south to the coast of Senegal, Africa, but these specimens may be misidentified M. mobular or Manta birostris.
Florida Museum of Natural History
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