The Spinetail Devil Ray

In this creature feature we look at the Spinetail Devil Ray. Also known as the Devil Fish or Giant Devil Ray. They’re known for their devil-like horns and aerial acrobatics.

With a maximum wingspan of 3.5m, the Spinetail Devil Ray (a.k.a. Giant Devil Ray) lives up to its name. However, it’s only the 3rd largest ray in the Mobula genus. The Giant Oceanic Manta and Reef Manta come in at 7m and 5.5m respectively. There are several species known as Devil Rays. These include species like the Lesser Devil Ray and Pygmy Devil Ray. They are the only devil fish with a spiny tail1.


The Spinetail Devil Ray is the only mobulid to live in the Mediterranean. In fact, they’ve been the subject of recent ecological investigations. Researchers found that they migrate to the northern region of the Mediterranean in the summer and the southeast during the winter. Seasonal migration has also been seen in the Gulf of California.


It feeds on plankton and small schooling fish. Using its cephalic fins (their “devil horns”) to trap prey.  Known for its aerial acrobatics, it’s capable of leaping from the water to great heights. Scientists are still not sure why they put on such a display.

Group feeding is a strategy used by many mobulids including Spinetail Devil Rays. They congregate in large groups and form long lines. Swimming head-to-tail they can form lines as long as several dozen individuals. This feeding technique is known as chain feeding. Some scientists believe the jumping from the water may be a technique used to direct prey into towards the group. Others believe it’s to indicate to nearby rays that there is prey within the area.

The Spinetail Devil Ray is classed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Like so many species it is at risk due to destructive fishing and bycatch mortality. The Spinetail Devil Ray is also at risk from pollution in some areas, like the Mediterranean.



SCIENTIFIC NAME:  Mobula mobular

FAMILY:  Mobulidae

MAXIMUM SIZE:  3.5m wingspan

DIET:  Mainly Krill, also small fishes. 

DISTRIBUTION:  Circumglobal (across the world). Most common in the Mediterranean Sea. Also the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, the Red Sea, and Arabian Gulf. 

HABITAT:  Mostly at depths of 50m and above but has been recorded at depths of 1,112m. Tropical and temperate waters.




Banner image from Wikimedia Commons




1di Sciara, G.N., Stevens, G. and Fernando, D., 2020. The giant devil ray Mobula mobular (Bonnaterre, 1788) is not giant, but it is the only spinetail devil ray. Marine Biodiversity Records13(1), pp.1-5. Retrieved from: