Big Bertha the Manta Ray Gives Birth

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Big Bertha the Manta Ray Gives Birth

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island
Aug 11, 2011


Boy, that girl was hardly showing when I saw her last February. I couldn't even tell she was pregnant, and by then, she was a good 8 months along. The mother of all manta rays, Big Bertha, gave birth this summer to possibly two baby manta rays.

Manta rays can grow up to 20 feet--wing-tip to wing-tip--and Big Bertha isn't called Big Bertha for no reason. (While they are closely related to sting rays, but they do not have stingers; just a long, skinny tail that looks like one!) Mantas weigh about 100 pounds for every foot of wingspan.

What's interesting about manta rays--well, actually, there's so much that's interesting about manta rays, but for our purposes here, I'll stick to one. It's the birth. In the scientific world, it's called aplacental and viviparity. That is, manta rays give live birth without a placenta. Here's how it works: The pup hatches from its thin-shelled egg while it's still inside its mother. After hatching, the pups feed on the uterine milk until it's expelled from its mother. At that time, the pups measure three to four feet wide and weigh approximately 20 pounds. Their pectoral fins are curled around the pup in an s-shape and unfold into wings when they are born. They bond with their mother is broken, and they instantly and magically start swimming and living on their own.

What's amazing is videographer James L. Wing captured Big Bertha's pregnancy--he didn't get the actual birth, though--throughout her 13-month gestation. The video above includes courtship behavior with two different males on two different occasions.

Hmm, I'm headed to Hawaii (Big) Island next week. I feel an adventure coming on!


Jackie Hester | Sep 06, 2011 10:46 AM

Aloha - what an amazing video! Thanks for sharing it with all of us! My husband and I have visited the area that Big Bertha swims in often and have actually viewed her from the Keauhou area on one of the evening manta tours. One of my favorite snorkel areas on the planet is nearby, luckily right next door to the Keauhou Outrigger! These tours and amazing opportunities are at your fingertips, go and explore and say hello to Bertha for me! p.s. Thanks to James L. Wing and the Outrigger for sharing the links to these amazing videos and information! Thanks to Kim Steutermann Rogers for the posts

Kim | Sep 12, 2011 11:26 AM

Hi Jackie, it sounds like you've had some amazing experiences on Hawaii Island. Me, too! You're so right. The snorkeling at Kahalu'u right next to Keauhou Beach Resort is outstanding. I like to go early in the morning before too many people show up and stir things up. Thanks for the comment.

Wildlife Photography | Nov 09, 2011 09:35 PM

Hi, I read your post, i really appreciate your experience and i will get good knowledge from their as well.

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