Southern stingrays (Dasyatis Americana) are tame freshwater stingrays that have a diamond-shaped disc with a color mix of dark brown, gray, black, and white. That combination of neutral tones is what they use to blend well on the sand to avoid predators and strategically hunt their preys.
These stingrays also have a barbed end for their whip-like tails. Despite that strong defense, they remain harmless unless predators intentionally attack these whiptails.
There are more southern stingray facts you might find interesting, and we have rounded them up for you below.
The Life of Southern Stingray
Southern stingrays are tropical species. That means that they frequent the warm waters of the western Atlantic Ocean (even extending to New Jersey), the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the southeastern Brazil coasts.
The southern stingray habitat is in the shallow coastal waters of the mentioned locations. The most accurate depth for their homes is 180 feet. As mentioned, freshwater stingrays love their sands, so they prefer those along with seagrass beds, lagoons, and coral reefs.
How they behave... Are they dangerous?
Southern stingrays are non-aggressive sea creatures despite their fierce tails. They are the biggest introverts of the freshwater ecosystem.
Stingrays bury themselves in the sand, leaving only their eyes and spiracles out. This camping behavior is both for protection, hunting, and just their overall lifestyle.
However, if they spot a predator around, they still most likely retreat. They might have a poisonous barb at the end of their whiptails, but they remain that docile creature, so they usually choose flight over fight.
On the days they feel less introverted though, move over vast distances. They go to different spots in huge areas in a day, most likely hoping to find more small fish in the sand.
What do Southern Stingrays eat?
So what do stingrays eat? Southern stingrays do not differ from other stingray species. They commonly feed on shellfish, worms, shrimps, crabs, and small fish inhabiting the sandy parts of the ocean.
If you read carefully, there is a distinct similarity between these "menus."
The keyword is sand.
Yes, they all live under the sand. Whiptails have to vacuum them out by blowing out water from their mouth and flapping their fins over the sand.
They also have excellent electroreception, which allows them to locate these hidden preys along with their sharp senses of smell and touch.
You could say that these exotic species dig up their food in the “cleaning areas” of the waters with their taste for small fish living in the sands.
There is not much information about mating among the southern stingrays. They are just rarely spotted in the wild, so experts haven’t gathered enough details about this aspect of their life.
However, one of the few studies out there reported that a male stingray followed a female one, and they observe them in what seems to be a “pre-copulatory” biting. That started the mating process according to them.
Another study presents a more detailed scene. Experts observed two southern stingray males mating with a single female. The two followed the female until one of them eventually bit and held onto her pectoral fin.
Soon after that, the same male curled his pelvic region towards the female’s urogenital opening (cloaca). Then it flipped upside down and thrust his pelvic region at a quick pace that made the mating process last only 10-33 seconds.
The male then released its bite from the pectoral disc of the female stingray. That marked the end of the mating process.
Regarding the sexual maturity for southern stingrays, there is a variation of ages depending on their geographical region. Typically, for those raised in captivity, it is 5-6 years old for females and 3-4 years old for males.
How does Dasyatis Americana reproduce?
One of the most astonishing reproduction stingray facts is that females can even mate with multiple males in the same breeding season. That explains the two male southern stingrays chasing that one female stingray in that study.
Female southern stingrays are also ovoviviparous, which means that the development of the offspring they produce happens within their bodies.
Yes, the hatching of the eggs takes place right inside the female stingray body. This process means that the newly hatched offsprings are first nourished within the body of the mother before she releases them into the world as healthy young ones.
Their birth process only makes southern stingrays independent right in their early years in the ocean. Ovoviviparous Birth prepares them to be competitive survivors, as their mothers release them from their bodies, more significant than most pups of other sea creatures.
Also, if you were wondering, these ovoviviparous females can produce 2-10 pups after a 3-8 month gestation period.
Just like the lack of information about these southern stingrays’ mating nature, there is also little study giving an accurate lifespan for these species. In a study that seems to be the only one available, it says that the record for the oldest age for a male is 12 years while it is 13 years for the female.
Other sources say that as long as kept in the wild, the maximum life expectancy for these species is up to 18 years. There is no definite source for a study that cites this, but we built this estimate out of the assumptions from the southern stingray facts that are accessible.
We know southern stingrays for having electroreception, which makes hunting easy for them with their eyes poorly placed on top of their discs. Aside from that odd sense, southern stingrays also have other unbelievable communicative characteristics.
They can communicate through their pheromones. Experts say that even the birth of an offspring can attract males more—another explanation for female southern stingrays mating with multiple males in a single breeding season.
Scientists in this study suggest that these could be sexual pheromones. They also think that the biting involved in the mating process of these freshwater stingrays is some strong communication.
Going back to non-sexual signals, southern stingrays also have an excellent sense for vibrations in the water courtesy of their lateral lines. Also, on their undersides, they have thousands of Ampullae of Lorenzini which detect a lot of the electric emissions from their preys.
Relationship with Humans
Are stingrays dangerous? No, research has established that they are gentle sea creatures regardless of their aggressive defenses. They even swim away from their predators instead of fighting them off.
That only means that these sweet whiptails will never harm humans. These southern stingrays might attack humans if they sense some threat from their actions.
What might be the problem between humans and southern stingrays is that the former might harm the latter more. In some cultures, people use the whiptails of these freshwater stingrays as weapons and accessories.
Their skin also makes good leather, which many find exploitative yet profitable. Stingrays are also unintentionally hurt or even murdered when fishers are catching other fish, and their nets catch these flat creatures instead.
That also damages habitats for the fish that are prey to the southern stingrays. That is an overall danger to the freshwater ecosystem, and that affects all of them in the food chain.
However, despite the danger humans inflict on these friendly animals, they remain calm enough that humans can still even interact with them underwater. This possibility of human interaction drives great ecotourism into the areas where people can find these stingrays. It is open opportunities for employment and businesses.
Cool fact: The female southern stingrays have bigger discs than males. The width of the female southern stingray disc ranges from 75 to 80 cm, while it is only 43 to 58 cm for the male. Another exciting part to add is that their whip-like tails could be twice as long as the size of these flat disc-shaped bodies of theirs.
That makes them dangerous even from afar, as these whiptails are venomous and sharp. However, as mentioned above, the southern stingrays are lovely sea creatures.
We can also infer from the facts above that female southern stingrays seem to have more dominant characteristics than the male ones. This behavior goes from how they can mate with multiple males, how they reproduce, and that they are more prominent.
Still, there are a lot of mysteries undiscovered about these southern stingrays. The lack of study about their mating, reproduction, and lifespan leaves only estimates of what could be more significant southern stingray facts. Until then, all we can do is continuously protect them.
We believe that the southern stingrays are one reason we humans should be more aware of how we affect the marine environment. Some people harm these stingrays both intentionally and not, and we could prevent that. These creatures remain so friendly to us despite their capability to kill us instantly.
Featured image: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]