A giant manta ray photobombed a surfer in Florida

Rusty Escandell told CNN she took the photo Sunday while spending the day with family and friends on a beach near Officer Club Beach at Patrick Space Force Base, but did not realize it until she got home.

“I saw a dive behind the surfer, but I didn’t think much about it,” he said. “It could be a fish, it could be anything.”

Escandell had taken a photograph showing the ray coming out of the water.

“It was amazing,” he said.

His daughter and her boyfriend are both marine biologists and said they saw manta rays in the water after the photo was taken, Escandell said.

Escandell owns a car repair shop and lives on the nearby satellite beach, and said he enjoys taking pictures on the beach quite often.

He did not know the surfer in the photo, but they have been talking since the photo went viral.

“He is also excited,” Escandel said.

Giant manta rays are the largest rays in the world and can grow in wingspan of up to 29 feet. Slow-swimming, migratory fish are listed as endangered under U.S. endangered species law and as endangered on the IUCN Red List. “Their populations are declining worldwide,” said Jessica Pate, a senior fellow at the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

Pate told CNN that about 50 people sent her a picture of Escandell in recent days.

He has just begun to study why adult manta rays are concentrated in central and northern Florida in the spring.

On Sunday, it spotted 64 giant manta rays as it conducted an aerial survey of the area between Sebastian and Daytona Beach – which includes the satellite beach.

“I’m not sure exactly what drives this big gathering. It could be for mating, it could be for feeding, it could be for both. But that’s going to be a study to find out,” Pate said.

He also said it is not known why giant manta rays violate, or jump out of the water, it could be a mating ritual, they could try to repel parasites or it could be a way of communication because it makes a loud sound.

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