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Manta Rays vs Stingrays – Here’s the Difference

Although manta rays and stingrays look similar, you may be surprised to find out that they are really very different. They are both in the same family of fish related to sharks, but differ in many ways. Both are flat fish with wings that help them glide through the water, so it’s easy to understand the confusion.

This article will go over the similarities and differences between manta rays and stingrays. We’ll also talk about which one can be dangerous and which one of the two is mostly harmless.

Let’s dive in!

Are manta rays and stingrays the same animal?

No, they are a completely different species from each other. Both prefer warm, tropical waters but mantas are much larger and live on the ocean floor while stingrays are smaller and enjoy shallower waters.

The difference between manta rays and stingrays

There are many differences between these two species of marine animals, but many people seem to think they are the same animal with two different names. Here are some common differences and similarities between the two:


  • Manta rays are much larger than sting rays
  • Stingrays have tails poisonous barbs on their tails, mantas do not have stingers
  • Mantas are filter feeders and eat mostly plankton while stingrays eat all kinds of sea life


  • They are both cartilaginous fish and in the shark family
  • Both are ovoviviparous and give birth to live young
  • They each have large triangular pectoral fins

Are they fish or mammals?

They are not mammals. As mentioned, both stingrays and manta rays are cartilaginous fish like sharks. This means they do not have bones and their skeletal structures are made primarily of cartilage.

About manta rays

image: Pixabay.com

There are two species of mantas, giant manta rays and reef manta rays. When referring to manta rays most people are talking about the giant manta rays. These gentle giants of the ocean have become a popular tourist attraction because they allow divers and snorkelers to swim with them.

Manta rays are listed as threatened under the endangered species act.

  • Size: The giant manta ray is the biggest of all rays and can have a wing span of up to 29 feet, be up to 23 feet long, and weigh up to 5300 pounds!
  • Range: Manta rays are migratory and can be found worldwide. They can survive in cooler waters as low as 65-70 F but prefer warmer waters.
  • Diet: Manta rays are filter feeders and eat plankton almost exclusively, but may also eat other tiny marine organisms including small fish and crustaceans.
  • Lifespan: Manta rays can live for about 40 years.

Are manta rays dangerous?

Manta rays are completely harmless, unless you are plankton. You may see conflicting info about whether or not mantas have teeth, but they actually do have hundreds of teeth they just never use them.

You can even snorkel or dive with mantas in places like Hawaii, which I have actually done myself! It was an amazing experience, there were times that one was mere inches from my face.

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I can confidently say from experience that manta rays are not dangerous and almost friendly if that’s possible. They constantly swim looking for food totally oblivious to humans trying to get a picture of these amazing creatures.

About stingrays

image: Pixabay.com

Stingrays are much smaller cousins to the manta, but are also cartilaginous fish like sharks. There are 220 known species of stingrays, some freshwater and some saltwater. Many of which also fall into either threatened or endangered categories. Stingrays like to bury themselves in the sand in shallow waters where they silently wait for their next meal.

  • Size: Some species can have a wingspan of 16.5 feet and weigh up to 1,320 pounds, while other species only have a wingspan of 10 inches.
  • Range: They can be found in tropical and subtropical oceans all over the world, mainly in shallow waters.
  • Diet: Most stingrays eat mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish.
  • Lifespan: Sting rays can live for 15-25 years in the wild.

Are stingrays dangerous?

Stingrays are considered by experts to be docile and shy creatures that will only attack if threatened or cornered. However they have venom embedded in their tail spines that can be dangerous. It is rare that this venom will actually kill a human, but it is certainly possible if you have an allergic reaction to the venom.

Manta ray facts

image: Pixabay.com

How does a manta ray give birth?

Manta rays do not lay eggs, they give birth to live young.

How big does a manta ray get?

A giant manta ray is the largest of all rays, can have a wingspan of up to 29 feet, be up to 23 feet long, and weigh up to 5300 pounds! They also have the largest brains of all sea creatures. They also have the biggest brains of any fish on the planet, up to 10 times bigger than that of a whale shark.

How long do manta rays live?

Manta rays can live up to 40 years in the wild.

Can manta rays close their mouths?

Yes, mantas can close their mouths but regularly swim with their mouths open because they are constantly funneling food into their mouths as they swim.

How much do manta rays eat?

An adult giant manta ray can eat up to 60 pounds of food each day.

Stingray facts

Are stingrays poisonous?

Many cultures do eat stingrays which means they are not poisonous, but we’ve talked about the fact that their tails have venom.

Do stingrays have bones?

All rays are in the cartilaginous fish category like sharks which means they do not have bones.

Do stingrays lay eggs?

Sting rays give birth to live young and do not lay eggs.

Do stingrays have umbilical cords?

Stingrays do give birth to live young like sharks and mantas, but they do not have umbilical cords or placentas.

What are baby stingrays called?

Baby Stingrays are called pups like sharks and other rays.

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