Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary hosts a healthy population of elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fishes), more commonly known as sharks and rays. For a full listing of shark and ray species found in the sanctuary, please visit our Elasmobranch List.
Manta Ray (Manta birostris) - 2018
(video at top of page)
A manta ray swims into the study area as two divers are working on long-term monitoring activities at East Flower Garden Bank. A transect line is visible on the reef to the left of the manta and divers.
Manta rays are identified by the black and white markings on their bellies. These visual identifications are unique to each animal and the basis of our Manta Catalog.
Video Length: 0:29
Mobula Ray (Mobula tarapacana) - 2018
A mobula ray swims above the reef at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, seemingly interested in the divers as it loops back to see them again and again.
Mobula rays are close relatives of manta rays, but have a mouth located underneath the body instead of in front. More information on the differences is available in our Manta Catalog.
Video Length: 0:46
Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) - 2015
The sanctuary dive team spent an afternoon at Stetson Bank in August 2015 conducting dive safety drills and response scenarios. During our visit, there was a lot of shark action--at least three 5-foot sandbar sharks cruising around! These clips were all taken on a GoPro during a single short but exciting dive.
0:00-0:06 A sandbar shark cruises from left to right over rocky terrain at Stetson bank, while sergeant majors and a reef butterflyfish move out of the way. The shark then cruises off into the distance.
0:06-0:10 A sandbar shark swims in blue water near the wall at Stetson Bank, first swimming toward the diver then turning off to the left.
0:10-0:15 The previous sandbar shark continues swimming to the left while another sandbar shark swims in from the right then veers and swims away into the distance.
0:15-0:21 A sandbar shark swims from the left over to a large rocky outcrop then makes a u-turn and swims away.
0:21-0:24 A sandbar shark swims behind one of the pinnacles along with a single creolefish.
0:24- The camera peeks over the edge of the reef and down the wall to see two sandbar sharks crossing paths below. One swims off to the left and the camera follows the other as it swims off to the right. A pair of reef butterflyfish and many smaller fish swim over the reef as the sharks pass by.
Video Length: 0:37
Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari)
Three spotted eagle rays cruise in formation at Stetson Bank. They are swimming along the reef wall, from left to right, at a slow, leisurely pace. About halfway through the video they make a slow u-turn, then continue cruising in the opposite direction.
Video Length: 0:42
Three spotted eagle rays cruise slowly over the flats at Stetson Bank, from left to right.
Video Length: 0:35
(Aetobatus narinari, Manta birostris, Dasyatis americana, Dasyatis centroura)
Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) school in the sanctuary during the winter, but can be seen in pairs or singly throughout the year.
Manta rays (Manta birostris) are also regular visitors to the sanctuary and often seen by divers. Each animal can be identified by the unique spot pattern on its belly, a feature which has allowed us to document over 80 individuals in the sanctuary, so far. To learn more about how we track and identify manta rays, please visit our Manta Catalog.
While eagle rays and manta rays spend most of their time cruising above the reef, other types of rays prefer the sea floor. Both southern (Dasyatis americana) and roughtail stingrays (Dasyatis centroura) can be seen in sand patches and valleys at the banks. They often flick sand on top of themselves to help with camouflage.
0:00-0:15 A single spotted eagle ray swims above the reef and a scuba diver at one of the Flower Garden Banks.
0:15-0:29 A single spotted eagle ray swims over a large sand flat, then suddenly swoops upward, only to level out again and continue on its way.
0:29-0:41 A manta ray, with a remora attached to its head, swims over the reef.
0:41-0:50 A different manta ray, with a mostly white belly, swims toward and then passes directly over the camera with nothing but blue water visible behind it.
0:50-1:08: The same manta ray swims in from the left, passes in front of the camera, and continues on its way. The sun shining through the water's surface creates a bright backdrop for the manta as it continues swimming.
1:08-1:18 A different manta ray, with a splotchy pattern mid-belly, swims from right to left past the camera.
1:18-1:31 A spotted eagle ray swims over the flats at Stetson Bank.
1:31-1:43 A spotted eagle ray swims over the pinnacles at Stetson Bank, passing a few divers along the way.
1:43-1:55 The camera follows just behind and above a spotted eagle ray as it swims over Stetson Bank.
1:55-2:04 A southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) rests in the sand at one of the Flower Garden Banks as a diver hovers in the background.
2:04-2:14 A diver with a video camera kneels alongside a very large roughtail stingray resting on the bottom at Stetson Bank.
2:14-2:25 The same roughtail stingray swims away, just above the reef at Stetson Bank.
Video Length: 2:25
Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson, Schmahl, DeBose and Kip Evans Photography
(Sphyrna lewini, Rhincodon typus, Carcharhinus sp.)
Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), duskies, silkies, tiger, nurse, and whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and more have all been seen in the sanctuary. We haven't yet captured video footage of them all, but we're trying.
0:00-0:09 A single scalloped hammerhead swims far above the reef with diver bubbles visible far below.
0:09-0:23 Scalloped hammerheads school over the reef.
0:23-0:28 A shark (Carcharhinus sp.) swims past a mooring line then a diver as it cruises over the reef.
0:28-0:34 A shark (Carcharhinus sp.) swims close to a diver at night, then quickly turns and speeds away.
0:34-0:41 A shark (Carcharhinus sp.) swims above the reef, then puts on a burst of speed and swims off into the distance.
0:41-1:10 A whale shark swims so close to the camera that only the side of the head is visible at first. As it continues swimming, the camera gets a glimpse along the entire left side of the shark ending with a rear view of the tail as it swims away.
1:10-1:30 A whale shark swims towards then directly beneath the camera, showing all of its spot patterns until just before the tail.
Video Length: 1:30
Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson, Schmahl, Weaver