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What is a Devil Ray?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A devil ray is a type of ray — a fish designated by its flat, diamond shape — that has a pair of fins at the front of its body which appear similar to horns, giving these fish their name. Several different species of rays can be called devil rays, and most belong to the genus Mobula within the family Myliobatidae, or eagle rays. These different types of rays include the Mobula hypostoma, also called the Atlantic devil ray or lesser devil ray, and the Mobula mobular, often called the devil fish or giant devil ray. These devil rays are usually found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, though some sightings in the Pacific have been reported as well.

Devil rays are all typically identifiable by their shape and how they move through the water. From overhead they tend to appear fairly diamond-shaped, with fins that appear similar to wings extending out to each side. They also have a long, thin tail, which in some species can contain a sharp spine used for protection. Devil rays are specifically recognizable due to a pair of cephalic fins found at the front of the fish which typically point forward and from above can seem like horns. Myliobatidae, or eagle rays, are identified by the graceful way in which they swim, resembling the soaring of a bird through the air.

Of the various species of devil ray, the Mobula hypostoma are among the most commonly observed. Though little is generally known about many devil rays, and Atlantic devil rays are no exception, they have been studied to some degree. They have been found traveling alone, in small groups, and even in larger groups and appear black, dark gray, and bluish in color. Atlantic devil rays are typically found along the eastern coast of North and South America and the Gulf of Mexico. They seem to feed primarily on small crustaceans such as shrimp and on schools of smaller fish as well.

Atlantic devil rays have been observed leaping out of the water as they swim, sometimes breaching several feet above the water and covering a significant distance before submerging. The devil fish or giant devil ray is the second largest type of ray, second only to the manta ray or Manta birostis, sometimes also called a devil ray. Giant devil rays have been found as large as 17 feet (just over five meters), though mantas can grow as large as almost 30 feet (a little over nine meters). While the Atlantic devil ray does not have a sharp spine in its tail, giant devil rays do have such a spine and will use it in self defense.

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