When it comes to the fish family, the overachiever award would have to go to the mantra ray. They are not only giants and charismatic, they are also geniuses in fish terms.
Being the biggest fish, they have huge brains and even have specific sections that are developed only for learning, problem-solving and communicating. This is why the giant rays tend to be so playful, curious and if ever given the chance would probably recognize themselves easily in a mirror.
Compared to other average fish, the giant rays definitely have much more spatial awareness and know what is going on around them. A mantra’s brain is around ten times bigger than a whale shark’s. It is also relatively large compared to their body which is another sign of being smarter, like the elephant, dolphin and of course humans.
Having a big brain is nice, but rays have also shown off their intelligence when put in from of behavioral tests, that use mirrors. Only a couple of species are able to understand reflections and manta rays have been able to recognize their own reflections.
In a study by the Manta Pacific Research Foundation in 2016, they found captive mantras would swim repetitively in front of mirrors to have a look at parts of their body they would not normally see. Rolling and unrolling in front of the mirrors and would also blow bubbles in front of the mirror.
Unfortunately being smart doesn’t always mean survival, giant mantra rays are under threat all over the world due to overfishing and aggressive nets. Countries like Sri Lanka and India hunt them down specifically for their gill rakers, which are a row of cartilage that is used in Chinese medicine.
However, being smart and fun to be around, does give them an upper hand for motivating groups of people to protect them. Many conventions are being set up to protect giant mantra rays in the ocean.