Species of stingrays vary in sizes, shapes, and designs. They look bizarre, but they fascinate with their exotic looks. Rays can add beauty and grace in any aquarium or ocean-themed park.
People often mistake them as dangerous and cold-blooded beasts of the deep that come waving their stinger tails at you. However, all are just beliefs, and the best way to know the truth is through familiarizing yourself with some stingray facts.
Stingray is apparently a fish...
Yes, the stingray fish is just like a skate, shark, sawfish, and guitarfish with slight differences in some aspects (which I will discuss later). It is a fish, although it has no fins and looks different from its other fish friends.
It has a flattened body, yet they are relatives to the monstrous sharks. Skates, Stingrays, and Sharks belong to a fish group known as Elasmobranchs, which means without bone structures or cartilaginous.
Unique features like none other
Since the stingrays are cartilaginous, they can swim like a bird flapping its wings in an undulating passion.
Its wavelike motion and underwater flying action are just breathtaking to the sight, making them unique creatures in their style.
The stingray anatomy comprised cartilages with no bone structure system.
Cartilage is a translucent elastic tissue similar to the make of human nose and ears.
These multiple cartilaginous elements make the body bendable and unbreakable.
The pectoral fins of the rays fuse and expand to the head, structuring its wide and flat disc that can form into a variety of shapes.
Although identical, stingrays and skates are not equal.
You can differentiate a skate from a stingray, but if you look and observe for a longer time, you can distinguish one from the other. A ray is kite-shaped and has a streamlined tail that has venomous barbs, whereas the skate is round or triangular with flesh and a tail that has a small fin on its end.
Rays are ovoviviparous while skates are oviparous. Stingrays can give live birth to its young.
They form the young of a stingray within the mother’s body (just like human beings) while the skates lay their eggs in a “mermaid’s purse.” These are blackish brown leathery hard egg cases in a rectangular shape.
The “mermaid purse” protects the eggs until the young are ready to hatch. We can see them washed up on the beaches, and we can confirm those are from where the young of the skates came.
Stingrays can store sperm and find a suitable time to give birth. They can also get pregnant from two males at the same time. Wow! These are fantastic stingray facts we do not know.
Baby stingrays are miniature versions of rays when born, taking on their parents’ features. They can swim at once and hunt for food. The ray mother has a maternal instinct to guide and protect its pups.
Lots of species: Check
There are 500 species of rays and its cartilaginous cousins that fit into 13 same Family; 18 are species of freshwater stingray.
They are creatures bearing exotic looks, moving in majestic passion, adding beauty to marine life.
Around 220 stingray species are into groups of 10 Families and organized into 29 Genera.
Some species that belong to Batoidea can adapt to both cold and tropical water. Some are:
- Short-tail stingray
- Smooth stingray or Southern ray
- Electric rays
- Cow nose rays
- Eagle rays
- Blue-spotted rays
- Round rays
- Butterfly stingrays
The manta rays can live in brackish bays and estuaries, while the rest of the species are on the sea floors of the deepest ocean which is the ideal stingray habitat.
The male rays are smaller at two-three feet across, whereas the females are larger at four feet across.
Although we find many stingray species, some are also nearing extinction. Marine experts have already declared some endangered.
There are laws in other countries prohibiting the sale of stingrays, and in South American countries, there are restrictions to follow in fishing and exportation of freshwater stingrays.
Programs about the preservation of this ocean’s treasures are now in full dissemination to safeguard the population of the endangered stingrays.
These are the likes of the blue-spot stingray, blue-spotted ribbon tail ray and honeycomb whiptail ray.
Monitoring programs like these will lead pioneering ways to new and efficient husbandry techniques.
A powerful sensory feature
Rays have an electromagnetic sense that enables them to spot their prey, smell leftover meat, and defend themselves when a predator is getting closer.
This super sensor, Ampullae of Lorenzini, comprised some gel-filled pits near their mouths.
Instead of using their eyes, Stingrays use a different means to hunt. They can detect electric signals from other animals in the water because of these Ampullae.
Therefore, despite having irregular eye positioning on top of their bodies and their gills are underneath, they bear this unique feature instead.
Electric rays can discharge and generate an excessive amount of electrical current for defense or for stunning their prey.
And for what do stingrays eat, the Ampullae help them sustain life. They feed on invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and other sources of meat.
Electric rays, just like its name, can generate and discharge a strong electrical current to stun prey and to defend themselves from potential predators.
Stingrays are loners, but they can swim in school during breeding season and migration.
Rays bury themselves on the sand of the riverbed or seafloor. They are solitary creatures that will do their own thing.
With only eyes exposed for alertness, they prefer resting, hiding, or chilling out this way.
They will leap at once when prey is within reach.
With their mottled, sandy to dark brown skin tone, they are perfect for camouflaging to hide from predators like hammerhead sharks, killer whales, and lemon sharks.
More enormous stingrays like the cow nose and manta do not stop swimming. A drone spotted this “fever” in Australia.
They looked like thousands of square-shaped sea creatures swimming in a specific formation. At a closer look, they revealed these are cow nose stingrays cruising the waters off Bondi Beach in Sydney.
A Deadly barb for +1 Protection
Although stingrays act friendly with humans, a run-in with a ray can be deadly. They carry venom on their barbs; One or two barbs are present on each tail.
Divers can be at risk when they step on camouflaging rays buried in the sand, as this signals a threat to a peaceful lying ray. Expert divers know how to walk on seafloors, shuffling their feet to avoid stepping on a ray’s back.
When a stingray fish senses that you are blocking its way, you could be in big trouble. It will wield its venomous tail and attack you in an instant.
In 2006, Steve Irwin, the “crocodile hunter” of Australia, died because of a stingray’s attack. Its tail pierced through his chest, and the wound caused him cardiac arrest.
Because of this, diving enthusiasts often see stingrays’ tail cut off if not dead. They do not confirm if this was a preventive measure motivated by that fatal blow to Steve Irwin.
Australia’s conservationists condemned this as this is not the proper way of treating marine wildlife, which Irwin had advocated for when he was still living.
Cutting the tails of placid rays is a callous act that creates conflicts with Irwin’s beliefs about conservation.
Not only deadly but also beneficial
The deadly venom extracted from the stingray’s spine has medicinal properties. Humans use it as dental anesthesia at the time of the ancient Greeks.
In Southeastern Asia countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the meat of a ray can make exotic food.
Japan technology makes use of the stingray’s skin as a cord underlayer. The thick skin texture guarantees product durability.
Chilling around since the prehistoric time.
Rays vary in shapes and sizes. Its lifespan can reach up to 15 to 25 years when in the natural stingray habitat. Females can give birth from two to six pups a year, even more for other species in the wild.
Fossil records of stingray anatomy during the Jurassic period (150M years ago) and the Paleocene Era (100M years later) were on files.
Stingray’s teeth and scales found were excellent evidence of this despite the lack of bones because they are cartilaginous. They have been here dating back ancient time.
The short-nose electric ray is the smallest stingray that only weighs 400 grams, whereas the short-tailed stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) found in the southern coasts of Australia and Africa measures the length of 14 feet and reaches 770 pounds in weight.
The monstrous freshwater stingray (Himantura chaophraya) ever captured grows gigantic. A fisherman in Mae Klong River, Thailand caught this 14-foot stingray which weighed around 600 - 800 pounds. The largest species of stingray measure 6.5 feet.
The most massive ray is the oceanic manta ray that weighs 2,000 kilos and reaches up to 7 meters in wing size. It is so far the biggest of all stingray species known.
Information about stingray facts will help you plan before deciding to keep a stingray fish. Knowledge of stingray habitat and what do stingrays eat help.