Books & Publications


Secret Life of Devil Rays

  • 232
  • Guy Stevens
  • Thomas Peschak
Release date
  • Dec 2016
  • 9780995588509

Born into a life of perpetual motion, manta rays must keep swimming to survive. Driven forward by powerful beats of their wing-like pectoral fins, they search the ocean currents for concentrated patches of the tiny planktonic organisms on which they feed. They are giants of their kind, ranging throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical oceans, where their horn-like cephalic (head) fins gave rise to ancient mariners’ tales of fearsome ‘devil fish’ that dragged boats into the ocean depths.

Today we know that these gentle giants are harmless to humans, but much else about their lives remains a mystery. Fundamental questions, such as how long they live and their reproductive cycles and fecundity, have yet to be answered satisfactorily. Areas of key habitat use, migration corridors and population estimates, both nationally and internationally, must also be clearly defined if we are to make the informed and educated decisions needed to protect effectively these animals and the world they inhabit. For the past decade, marine biologist and leading manta expert Guy Stevens has devoted his life to answering the important questions about manta rays. Now he has joined forces with award-winning National Geographic photographer Thomas P. Peschak to produce this book. It combines groundbreaking photography, personal experiences and the latest scientific research to create the definitive publication about these charismatic animals.

Manta rays are the embodiment of nature’s majesty, the vehicle that draws people through the looking glass, opening eyes and minds. They captivate people and connect them to our oceans, symbolising what is at stake if we choose not to respect and protect our natural heritage. As co-founders of conservation charity the Manta Trust, the authors hope that these iconic images and enlightening words not only convey the true grace and inquisitive nature of these threatened rays, but also demonstrate what we stand to lose if we choose not to protect them and our oceans.

About the authors
Guy Stevens
Guy Stevens

I have been fascinated by the natural world all my life and growing up on a farm in south-western UK provided me with a seemingly limitless supply of weird and wonderful creatures to discover. I always knew that I wanted to make studying animals my career, but it was only when I was given a tropical fish tank at the age of 11 that my passion for the underwater world began. From that moment forward I would say ‘I want to study fish!’ when asked what I planned to do when I grew up. True to my word, I progressed...

Thomas Peschak
Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak is an assignment photographer for National Geographic Magazine. He is a Founding and Associate Director of the Manta Trust, and a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He has been named as one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world.

Originally trained as a marine biologist specializing in human-wildlife conflict, he retired from science fieldwork in 2004. He became a wildlife photojournalist after realizing that he could have a greater conservation impact through photographs than statistics. His work focuses on some of the most critical marine conservation issues of our time.

Thomas has written and photographed...

Guy and Thomas have brought together their knowledge and expertise to create a book that perfectly captures the essence of manta rays. It stirred within me a desire to do more to help conserve our oceans, and I hope that it does the same for you!
Sir Richard Branson | Ocean Elder & Founder of Virgin Group
Mantas can’t fail to impress, they’re spectacular animals to encounter underwater, and Guy’s level of knowledge about them and their individual characters gave me a whole new level of fascination.
Doug Allan | Wildlife Cameraman & Photographer
MANTA: Secret Life of Devil Rays, is one of those rare volumes that is both gorgeous to look at, and fascinating to read. Although the author and most of the contributors are scientists, they write in a style that is easily accessible to the average reader. Stevens has avoided the temptation, to which many academics succumb, to write in arcane jargon that can only be appreciated by fellow researchers. Yet, the content is not in any way “dumbed down.” I have been reading and writing about these rays for many years, and yet found something that was new and surprising to me on page after page. The text is, unsurprisingly, biased somewhat toward the manta population of the Republic of Maldives, where Stevens has conducted most of his research. However there are also sections concerning populations elsewhere, and much of the text is applicable to mantas worldwide. As one would expect of a creative and dedicated photographer who is regularly featured in National Geographic Magazine, Tom Peschak has produced an extraordinary compliment of photos well-suited to the large format of the book. The book is worth the purchase price for its decorative value alone, but the buyer who takes the time to read it through will be amply rewarded.
Doug Perrine | Marine Wildlife Photographer
Guy Stevens and Thomas Peschak’s beautiful book Manta: Secret Life of the Devil Rays combines stunning photography with the gripping story of the Mantas’ natural history, and an urgent conservation message. Guy Stevens is devoting his life to understanding these truly magical animals, and he writes about them with as much authority as passion. There can be no more charismatic icon for our rapidly changing seas, and no more urgent reason to take better care of them.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall | Chef, Journalist, Food & Environmental Campaigner