Manta rays are large eagle rays belonging to the genus Manta. The larger species, M. birostris, reaches 7 m (23 ft) in width while the smaller, M. alfredi, reaches 5.5 m (18 ft). Both have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, forward-facing mouths. They are classified among the Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) and are placed in the eagle ray family Myliobatidae.
Both species are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and direct harvesting for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats. They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore. Areas where mantas congregate are popular with tourists. Only a few aquariums are large enough to house them. In general, these large fish are seldom seen and difficult to study