Giant Manta Ray Sends Diver Tumbling Off The Coast Of Peru [Video]

Divers studying giant manta rays off the coast of Peru recently filmed an extraordinary interaction with one of the massive animals, as it grabbed a man and sent him somersaulting through the water.

Researcher and diver Josh Stewart approached the manta ray off the Peruvian coast, attempting to photograph unique markings on its belly in order to document it for the Manta Trust, according to Grind TV. The 15-foot-ray, while a harmless and docile creature, approached Stewart, grabbing hold of his fins and twisting around the diver, somersaulting through the water with him.

“I was just swimming down as I usually do to capture a manta ID shot and before I knew it, I was engulfed in the wings of this massive manta as I tumbled through the water,” he recalled. “I suffered no injuries but it was certainly a big surprise.”

The manta ray’s actions were deliberate, and as WildAid points out, the animal had likely never encountered divers before. The region in which Stewart and his colleagues were documenting rays is a remote one, where ecotourism or a diving industry are nonexistent propositions.

According to Shawn Heinrichs, the photographer and cinematographer who filmed the unique interaction, the manta may have been sending a signal to the diver by grabbing him.

“Perhaps out of curiosity, or possibly to send a not-so-subtle message, the manta performed its acrobatic somersault and scooped Josh’s fins between its cephalic fins, sending Josh spinning,” he noted.

Heinrichs, who has spent years documenting manta rays, also asserted that he had never observed an interaction between a ray and diver quite like the one Stewart experienced.

Last year, a manta ray was filmed in Costa Rica approaching divers and seemingly imploring them for help. The ray had become entangled in fishing line, as the Inquisitr previously reported, and the divers obliged the animal by cutting it free. As if to express its happiness at being set loose from the offending line, the manta immediately engaged in a backflip, tumbling through the water near the divers to communicate its thanks.

Working with with Planeta Oceano, and accepting support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Stewart and Heinrichs are documenting the manta rays in an effort to shore up conservation efforts in Peru, which are in their earliest stages.

[Image: Shawn Heinrichs via Grind TV]