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So it's understandable that one diver was completely caught off-guard when the placid fish took the man up into its wings and caused him to somersault mid-swim.
Josh Stewart was swimming on an expedition in a remote area of Peru when he got caught up in the 15-foot wings of the giant ray.
"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," Stewart explains, "I suffered no injuries but it was certainly a big surprise."
Stewart had been trying to take a photograph of the ray's belly to help with long-term identification, a part of the Manta Trust project which aims to learn more about the huge fish.
Shawn Heinrichs, a renowned photographer and cinematographer, theorizes that the ray may have never seen a diver before and reacted to Stewart's unfamiliar presence.
"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," Heinrich writes on a blog.
The encounter is rare, if not the first of its kind, Heinrich continues, "in all my years of filming and interacting with manta rays, I have never witnessed such an extraordinary interaction between a manta ray and a swimmer."
The two were swimming off the coast conducting research toward protection of the giant manta, in conjunction with Planeta Oceano and support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.