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Massive manta rays in Jacksonville Beach

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Updated: 9/02/2013 11:57 pm
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla.-- It's wasn't just people flocking to the beach on Labor Day. Another species took to our shores and viewers worried sending us photos of a large fin peeking out of the surf.

"It was huge and I saw it and I said 'oh my god'," said Doreen Burr.

Burr fishes frequently at the Jacksonville Beach Pier. She says she's never seen anything quite like it. But she knew these weren't sharks or dolphins, they were something more unusual: massive manta rays. Some she says about 10 feet wide.

"I mean it was huge. I mean it just come right up out of the water," she said.

Jacksonville University marine biologist Quinton White confirmed that's exactly what beachgoers like Burr were seeing.

"A 10-foot one is probably going to weigh, oh, several hundred pounds," he said.

White said when they flap their wings out of the water they can be easily mistaken for dorsal fins from the shore.

"They swim they put up two fins when you see them they're flapping their wings," he said.

So why aren't unusually large number of mantas taking a Labor Day trip to Jacksonville Beach? Dr. White says many are making their way closer to the shore than usual because of something called upwelling.

"The wind has turned around we're pushing warm water off the beach and bringing cooler water in the waters dropped a bit in temperature so I think the mantas are coming here following the food," said Dr. White.

White says they'll stick around as long as food is here so enjoy them while you can.

Manta rays are not aggressive, and they're not dangerous because they don't have barbs like sting rays.
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