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Manta Rays

April 23, 2009--Manta rays are a very popular sight for Scuba divers that visit the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Their large size and graceful movements are exciting to see, and an up-close encounter with one is something no diver can ever forget! But, why should divers be the only ones to enjoy the mantas?

Over the years sanctuary staff and volunteers have captured photographs of over 60 different manta rays in the sanctuary. By looking at the unique markings on their undersides we've been able to identify each individual. These are now sorted and identified by number in a manta catalog that is available both online and on board the dive charter vessels that visit the sanctuary. You can see all of the mantas and learn more about how we identify them by visiting the online Manta Catalog.

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Name a Manta, Win a Prize

So far, just one of the manta rays in the catalog has a name. Research assistant Marissa Nuttall named her Mirame, which is Spanish for "look at me," because she's the manta that has been spotted the most times. If not for this name, we'd just be calling her M13. Visit M13 in the manta catalog to learn more about her.

Below is a photo of manta ray M26. She was spotted in both July 2003 and August 2004 at East Flower Garden Bank. The second time she was spotted was during the annual coral spawning.

Now it's your turn to name a manta ray! See what you can learn about manta rays by visiting the Manta Catalog and other resources. Look at the patterns on the belly of M26. Visit M26 in the manta catalog. Think about where she's been seen and when. What do you think we should name her?

Shrimp boat standing upright in the parking lot of a restaurant on the bay side of Galveston Island.

Manta ray M26 is a female. Her belly markings are a mix of spots and square blotches. In this photo, a remora (a type of fish) has attached itself on the underside of her right cephalic fin (fin near her mouth) for a free ride.

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Contest Rules

  1. Learn all you can about M26 and other manta rays, then pick a suitable name for M26.
  2. Email us at Tell us the name you chose for M26 and explain why you chose that name. Write "Manta Contest" on the subject line. OR
  3. Send us a letter at Manta Contest, FGBNMS, 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551. Tell us the name you chose for M26 and explain why you chose that name.
  4. Only one entry will be accepted per email or mailing address. If more than one entry is received from the same address, only the first one received will be accepted. (Addresses will not be used for anything other than contest correspondence.)
  5. Deadline for entries is May 15, 2009. Any contest emails or letters received after that date will not be considered.

If we like the name you chose the best, you will win a manta catalog poster like the one below.

Image of the Manta Rays of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary poster.

Win this poster by picking the best name for manta ray M26.

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Good Luck!

Teachers and other Group Leaders--please feel free to email an entry for your class/group. We'd love to have your students learn more about the sanctuary!

If you have any questions about the contest, please email us at

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Ruby brittle star in foreground, snaking across a spawning star coral in background.  Coral spawn looks like white BBs floating up from the coral.
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