TIME Lightbox: Underwater Giants: The Magnificent Manta Rays of the Maldives
Swooping gracefully through the water like giant bats, these huge manta rays gather to feed on microscopic plankton. These amazing pictures were taken by British photographer Warren Baverstock, who spent nine days on the Maldives to capture these beautiful creatures. Up to 200 mantas gather in Hanifaru Bay, which is just the size of a football pitch, to feed and be cleaned of parasites by smaller fish.
Manta rays are the world’s largest ray and have the biggest brain to body weight ratio of their cousins the skates and sharks. They feed on plankton and fish larvae either on the ocean floor or in open water. They filter their food from the water passing through their gills as they swim. Mantas frequently visit cleaning stations where small fish such as wrasse, remora, and angelfish swim in their gills.