Manta Ray Size Comparison: How Big is a Manta Ray?

Biggest Fish in the World: Giant Oceanic Manta Ray

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: November 4, 2022

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Manta ray size comparison: human great white shark bull shark
Manta rays are one of the biggest cold-blooded fish!

As the largest ray and one of the largest fish in the sea, it’s no surprise that the manta ray is big. However, do you know just how big these devil fish really are? When you see this manta ray size comparison, it might just surprise you. 

Rays come in many sizes. If you live by the coast or have visited an aquarium, you may be familiar with stingrays. While related to the manta ray, their size doesn’t even come close to their large ocean cousins. After all, could you imagine riding on the back of a stingray? Probably not, but after reading this, you may just see yourself swimming through the ocean on the back of these gentle giants of the deep!

Manta Ray Size

Biggest Fish: Giant Ocean Manta Ray

Manta rays get the nickname “devil fish” for their two large horns.

While scientists used to believe there were only one species of manta ray, they’ve now discovered that there are two: the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray.

At a first glance, it may not seem like these two sea creatures have too many differences. In fact, the only thing that creates a distinction of three tiny differences: their coloration, their habitat, and, you guessed it, their size. 

The giant manta ray is the larger of the two species. They have a “wingspan” or disc width of up to 30 feet! That’s around the same size as your typical Routemaster Double-Decker bus, and only a few feet smaller than a telephone pole! If you were to compare their wingspan to some of the largest birds of prey, it would also take nearly four bald eagles side by side with their wings expanded to equal the same width as the giant manta ray!

A typical adult giant ray can reach weights of up to 3,600 pounds. While that’s only a fraction of some of the other largest critters under the sea, it’s still around the same size as a car!

Reef Manta Ray Size

The reef manta ray, however, is much smaller, though it’s still one of the largest fish you’ll find in the ocean. These rays tend to have a width of 9.8 to 11.5 feet, though they’ve been recorded with a width of up to 18 feet – that’s the same height as a giraffe!

While they’re much smaller in comparison, the reef manta ray is only a few hundred pounds lighter than their close cousin the giant oceanic manta ray. At 2,900 pounds, the reef ray weighs the same as a Toyota Corolla. 

Manta rays also have long tails. However, these supersized sea creatures are complete gentle giants: their tails have no venomous or dangerous barbs and they only eat plankton. 

Both the giant oceanic and reef manta rays have the largest brain-to-body weight ratio in the oceans. Talk about a super-sized genius!

Human Vs. Manta Ray Size Comparison

Manta ray size comparison: human great white shark bull shark
Manta rays can weigh more than cars – fitting for the fact they can hold nearly as many people as a bus!

While we’ve already learned the reef manta ray could provide a round-trip for the giraffe (good luck finding enough oxygen tanks for that, though!), do you know how you would compare?

If you were looking to recreate a scene from your favorite animated movie, you and 47 other adult passengers could fit on the back of the giant oceanic manta ray. For children, this number goes up to around 72! 

As for their width, it would take nearly 6 adults laying foot to head in order to cover the area from the tip of one of their wings to the other. That number drops to around 4 for the reef ray. In fact, if you were to just swim alongside a manta ray, just one of its fins would mostly be longer than you. 

When it comes to their weight, however, the comparison may just surprise you! If you were able to catch an oceanic manta ray and place it on a scale, it could take nearly 20 humans to balance it. That’s double the population of McMullen, Alabama!

Great White Shark Vs. Manta Ray Size

Great white shark close up in the water

Great whites are closely related to manta rays. How will they measure up?

How does the largest predatory shark compare to the largest ray in the sea?

While the manta ray may be able to go head to head with the great white in terms of inches and feet – which we’ll compare next! – they’re no match when it comes to weight. The great white shark easily outweighs the manta ray. In fact, at up to 5,000 pounds, it can reach sizes that are more than 1,000 pounds larger than giant manta rays!

At its largest, the great white shark can grow to around 21 feet. This is larger than the reef ray by around 3 feet (around the same length of a guitar) and only a few feet shorter than the largest of the giant oceanic manta ray. 

One big difference between manta rays and great whites? The manta ray doesn’t have any teeth. Instead, with a diet made completely of plankton, they have small plates in their mouth to help filter water. As a result, with teeth that can reach nearly 3 inches in length, the great white wins this contest by default. 

Bull Shark Vs. Manta Ray Size

Bull shark facts - a bull shark underwater

Bull sharks can weigh almost double that of a human! How will they compare to rays?

According to some animal professionals, the bull shark is one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. This is because, even though attacks are rare, these large sharks have the ability to travel upstream and are extremely territorial. 

However, despite being so dangerous, the bull shark isn’t the largest shark around. In fact, their size is only slightly longer than a human, and, with males 7 feet in length, they’re much smaller than most manta rays. Even females, who can grow to 11 feet (a little smaller than an elephant is tall), are just even with the reef manta ray and still several feet smaller than adult oceanic manta rays. It’s much more common to find females to be only a few inches longer than their male counterparts, however, making this manta ray size comparison much more interesting. 

Bull sharks are even smaller when it comes to weight. An adult bull shark won’t usually get bigger than around 300 pounds naturally, the same weight as a refrigerator. This means it could take up to 12 bull sharks to weigh the same as a single giant oceanic manta ray! 

Manta Ray Population

The Manta Ray population is currently under threat from over fishing due to rising demand in Asian markets for the Manta ray gills. Manta Ray gills are said to detoxify the blood and lungs, increase breastmilk quantities, cure people suffering from chickenpox and tonsil issues. Another reason for them being threatened is Manta rays becoming victims of bycatch. The IUSN has declared reef manta rays as vulnerable and giant manta rays as endangered. In many countries around the world manta rays have been declared as threatened species and are now under protective laws.

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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