| Common names: devil ray (English), mobula (English), manta (Espanol) |
Mobula japanica (Müller & Henle, 1841)
Spinetail mobula, Spinetail devil ray
Disc strongly rhomboidal, much wider than long; wings strongly pointed; head wide, projecting from disc; pectoral fins extend along head and form two large soft horns; front margin of pectoral fin ends under spiracle; a short keel present over the spiracle; eyes and spiracles on side of head; mouth ventral; teeth on both jaws; length of tooth bands ~ 75% of mouth width; teeth long, twice as long as wide, scattered; filter plates of gills with 18-25 side lobes, last lobe leaf shaped, plates separate at tips; tail with small dorsal fin at base long, slender, as long as or longer than disc width, its base oval, with 1 large serrated spine, plus a row of soft tubercles along each side; denticles on upper surface of body dense.
Upper surface dark blue to black; dark inside mouth; lower surface white; dorsal fin black with white tip; tubercles on sides of tail white.
Size: 310 cm wide.
Habitat: pelagic in coastal and oceanic waters.
Depth: to 30 m.
Circumtropical; southern California to Peru (except the Gulf of California)
Global Endemism: All species, TEP non-endemic, Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans), "Transpacific" (East + Central &/or West Pacific), West + East Pacific (but not Central), East Pacific + Atlantic (East +/or West), East Pacific + all Atlantic (East+West)
Regional Endemism: All species, Eastern Pacific non-endemic, Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic, Continent, Continent only
Climate Zone: North Temperate (Californian Province &/or Northern Gulf of California), Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap), Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos), Equatorial (Costa Rica to Ecuador + Galapagos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo), South Temperate (Peruvian Province )
The southern Gulf of California is believed to serve as an important spring and summer mating and feeding ground for adults (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988). Pupping appears to take place offshore, Ebert (2003) suggesting around offshore islands or seamounts.
Inshore/Offshore: Offshore, In & Offshore, Inshore
Water Column Position: Surface, Near Surface, Water column only
Habitat: Water column
FishBase Habitat: Pelagic
Habitat and Ecology
Mobula japanica attains at least 310 cm DW but is usually smaller than 250 cm DW. The reproductive mode within this family is aplacental viviparity and the species possesses only a single functional ovary. Embryos obtain nutrients initially by yolk, then through absorption of enriched uterine fluid from the mother (Wourms 1977). Size at birth ranges between 70 and 85 cm DW (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988, Compagno and Last 1999). In Indonesia, males mature between 205 and 210 cm DW, and one pregnant female contained a single embryo 50 cm DW (W. White unpublished data). In the Gulf of California, males appeared to reach sexual maturity at ~210 cm DW and females by ~207 cm DW based on follicle size.
There is no published information on the age and growth of this species.
The species is planktivorous with stomach contents containing 99.6% euphausiids (Nyctiphanes simplex) from April through July (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988).
In the area around Bahia de la Ventana (southern Gulf of California, México) individuals are found from April through late summer, with a peak of abundance in late summer (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988). Seasonally later occurrence than M. thurstoni in the Bahia la Ventana region suggests resource competition avoidance (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988). Movement patterns and migrations of mobulids are not well understood.
Life history parameters
Age at maturity (years): Unknown.
Size at maturity (disc width): Female: Gulf of California: ~207 cm DW (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988); Male: 205 to 210 cm DW (Indonesia) (W. White unpublished data), ~210 cm DW (Gulf of California) (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988).
Longevity (years): Unknown.
Maximum size (disc width): 310 cm DW.
Size at birth: 70 to 85 cm DW (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988, Compagno and Last 1999).
Average reproductive age (years): Unknown.
Gestation time (months): Unknown.
Reproductive periodicity: Unknown.
Average annual fecundity or litter size: 1 pup/litter (W. White unpublished data).
Annual rate of population increase: Unknown.
Natural mortality: Unknown.
Diet: Pelagic crustacea, zooplankton, pelagic fish eggs, pelagic fish larvae, bony fishes
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Mobula japanica
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mobula japanica
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 21
Species With Barcodes: 1
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mobula japonica
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
CITES: Not listed
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2003Near Threatened(IUCN 2003)
- 2003Near Threatened
Mobula japanica is a common catch in the inshore pelagic tuna gillnet fisheries of Indonesia and is also taken by purse seine in that country. The high value of gill rakers in some areas, e.g., Pelabuhanratu in West Java (W. White unpublished data), is driving a dramatic increase in the catch of mobulids in Indonesia where some fishers are now targeting devil rays. When shark catches are lower (off-season, December to March) fishers are landing more mobulids as an alternative (W. White pers. obs.). The flesh is also utilized both for human consumption and as bait and chum for longlines.
The species is caught in artisanal drift and demersal gillnet fisheries and directly targeted using harpoons in the Gulf of California. Mobula japanica represented 30% of the catch of mobulids observed during a survey of artisanal landings in Bahia de la Ventana, southwestern Gulf of California (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988). This was second to M. thurstoni, which represented 58% of the catch. Mean daily capture of M. japanica in Bahia de la Ventana from March to July 1983 was: March: 0.0, April: 0.4, May: 0.4, June: 1.7, July: 4.3 (Notarbartolo-di-Sciara 1988). Seventeen individuals were noted among landings of 12 pangas at Punta Arena de la Ventana in June 2001 (J. Bizzarro pers. obs.). There is still an active mobulid fishery in the southwest Gulf of California, south of La Paz and devil rays are also landed in nearshore artisanal elasmobranch fisheries throughout the Gulf of California.
Mobula japonica comprised 37% of the Philippine mobulid fishery during 2002 (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, unpublished study), which may reflect its relative importance in other target fisheries in the Southeast Asia region. There is currently a ban on fishing for manta rays in the Philippines, but the effectiveness of this ban is questionable due to limited enforcement ability and mobulids are still being taken illegally.
Mobula japanica is not likely to be able to tolerate high catch levels, given its low reproductive potential. Increasing catches of mobulids in Indonesia, which may mirror increases elsewhere, is of great concern.
In México, a moratorium on the issue of elasmobranch fishing permits was issued in 1993, but no formal management plan has been implemented for Mobula japanica specifically or most other chondrichthyans. However, legislation is currently being developed in México to establish national elasmobranch fishery management.
Elasmobranch landings in most parts of the world generally lack species-specific details (for example in México, batoids are broadly grouped as ?manta raya?). Improved clarity in catch records would provide a basis for detecting potential trends in effort and landings.
In the Philippines, fishing for mobulids was banned in 1998, however it was lifted in 1999 to study the fishery. The ban was put back in place in 2002, and currently it is illegal to fish for any Manta or Mobula in Philippine waters. However, enforcement is insufficient and mobulids are still being taken illegally.
Elasmobranch fisheries are generally unmanaged throughout Central America and Southeast Asia and indeed elsewhere in the range of this species, and attempts to regulate fisheries in these regions would greatly improve conservation of M. japanica and other chondrichthyans.
The development and implementation of management plans (national and/or regional e.g., under the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: IPOA?Sharks) are required to facilitate the conservation and sustainable management of all chondrichthyan species across the regions where this ray occurs.
The vulnerability of mobulids and increasing catches requires urgent international conservation measures. These will need to focus on harvest and trade management.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Mobula japanica, commonly known as the spinetail mobula or devil ray, is a species of pelagic marine fish which belongs to the family Myliobatidae found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and eastern Atlantic Ocean. The spinetail mobula is dark blue to black above and white below. Some distinctive points of the spinetail mobula are that its head projects from the disk, the inner surface of the cephalic fins (horns) are silver-grey with black tips, while the outer surface and side behind eye is white.It also has a tail spine.
- White, W.T., Clark, T.B., Smith, W.D. & Bizzarro, J.J. 2005. Mobula japanica. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 3 August 2007.
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