Manta rays are the largest member of the ray family, growing up to 25 feet across. While most fish swim, rays fly gracefully through the water by flapping the edges of their fins like wings. Rays are actually relatives of sharks.
Manta rays are a favorite among divers because they are so large and beautiful, but also very gentle. They are said to often become curious about divers and interact with them. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any of the shark family. They are also sometimes found in groups or even large schools.
Manta rays are sometimes referred to as devil rays because of the hornlike projections around their mouths. These are actually used to funnel food into their gaping mouths. They feed exclusively on plankton, which they scoop into their mouths as they glide along the currents. Manta rays swim slowly, often doing loops and dives as they seek out plankton.
With their huge wingspan, one often wonders if they could fly. In some ways, they do. Rays have been observed leaping completely out of the water for short periods of time. Naturally gravity takes its toll but they get some considerable air time before plunging back under the waves.
If you want to see a giant manta ray in person, you can find one swimming along with 3 whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium. I got to watch this graceful giant up close on my recent visit there.