A viral video shows how a type of ray, the mobula, can fly.
Seemingly in unison, the rays glide under the water before getting enough speed and ejecting themselves from the water. The footage was captured off the Gulf of California.
Mobula rays can reach heights of more than 6 feet and can remain in the air for a few seconds, the BBC noted.
They, however, don’t have graceful landings and belly-flop back into the water.
The flying behavior can last for 24 hours straight and involve hundreds.
“Sitting in a boat in the midst of these aggregations is akin to sitting in a pot of popcorn as the kernels explode into the air. Everywhere you look mobulas are leaping out of the water and landing with a loud smack, sometimes just a couple of meters from you,” Joshua Stewart, from the Gulf of California Marine Program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told the broadcaster.
Stewart added: “The mobulas launch themselves straight up out of the water at top speed, and most often they land flat on their belly. However, sometimes they seem to lose control and do flips and twists before reconnecting with the water.”
They’re difficult to observe in the wild due to their elusiveness.
“As far as we can tell, all mobulid rays jump, as do their myliobatid (eagle rays) cousins. Many theories have been suggested [as to why they jump], from feeding, courting, communicating, and ridding themselves of parasites,” he added.
The researcher also noted that “while the jumping behavior may occur during feeding or courting events, we believe that the most likely purpose of the jumping behavior is communication, which could have a variety of applications in different behavioral scenarios. However, it is very likely that mantas, mobulas and eagle rays jump for a variety of reasons.”
According to National Geographic, they live in warm ocean waters around the world.
“These fish have a pair of winglike fins that can extend up to 17 feet. The fins help the rays rocket from the sea when they leap. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why all nine species of mobula rays do these jumps. But they think it may be to show off for a potential mate, get rid of parasites, or communicate,” says the publication.
They also swim in huge groups.
“Mobula rays tend to swim in schools of a hundred or more fish, especially while feeding. These marine animals snack on tiny fish and small sea creatures called zooplankton. They eat by scooping prey into their mouths with the floppy lobes that hang from either side of their heads,” National Geographic adds.