I enjoy researching a wide variety of topics and I have professionally written for a number of different organisations around the world.
What Is a Stingray?
This cute little creature that looks like a piece of ravioli pasta is a baby stingray and just one of hundreds of types of sea rays found all around the world in shallow tropical waters. All rays belong to the superorder Batoidea, which includes sawfish, stingrays, electric rays, skate, and guitar fish (which looks like a shark).
Rays are a type of fish described as being like a flattened shark with a flat wide body. Rays have no bones and are cartilaginous fishes, which are types of fish related to sharks. The main difference between a cartilaginous and a bony fish is the skeleton makeup. A bony fish has a bone skeleton and cartilaginous fish has a skeleton made of cartilage. As its name suggests, the stingray can sting but not all rays are stingrays. The scientific name of a stingray is Myliobatiform.
There are over 500 species of rays that are divided into over 30 subtypes around the globe. A new species of ray was discovered in 2011 in the Amazon rainforest and was named the pancake ray because of its similarity to a breakfast pancake.
How a Ray Is Born
Stingrays are ovoviviparous, pronounced "ow-vow-vai-vi-puh-ruhs," meaning that the eggs develop and hatch inside the body of the mother. The embryos absorb nutrients from the yolk sac, and the mother provides additional nutrients in the form of a rich, milky substance—a uterine fluid produced in the mother's uterus.
Embryos are retained in their eggs within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch, and then they stay within the body of the mother until she feels safe enough to give birth. A young ray is called a pup, and mothers can give birth to as many as 10 young pups in one litter. Each of these pups can range from 6 inches (15 cm) to over 12 inches (30 cm) long.
Research has shown the gestation period of stingrays is not set, as it is found that ray pregnancy time varies between 125 and 226 days. The average life span of the ray is 15 to 25 years.
The size of full grown stingrays can be up to 14 feet (426 cm) in length, and the smallest ray is the electric ray, which is only 4 inches (10 cm) across and weighs about one pound.
Stingrays are born fully formed with a defense system that includes a serrated-edged spine or barb with venom in it that enables them to survive on their own once they have left the safety of mother's body.
During mating seasons, which is not the same time for all rays, a male will impregnate the female by use of a modified pelvic fin as he bites the female rays back. It is thought that even though most rays tend to bite the female during a mating period, biting does not always result in copulation.
How a Stingray Lives, Hunts, Eats, and Defends Itself
Most rays spend the majority of their life in a dormant state, partially buried in sand, often only moving with the gentle sway of the tide. Larger rays like the cow nose ray and the manta ray swim and never stop swimming. Often solitary creatures, the large rays have been seen migrating in their thousands, and groups can reach up to 10,000. A large group of rays is called a "fever."
The eyes of the rays are on their backs—on the dorsal side of their bodies—and are not used in hunting. The mouth of the ray is on the flip side of its body, and it is with the mouth they hunt. The ray is equipped with senses around the mouth called ampullae of Lorenzini, which can detect electric impulses of their prey. They hunt by sensing or feeling the vibration of their prey. They survive on a diet of clams, mussels, mollusks, and oysters.
Stingrays are born with the ability to change the colour of their body and blend into their surroundings, making themselves almost invisible to predators. This capability to camouflage makes it more difficult for bigger stingrays or sharks to detect and eat them as they blend, partially buried under sand into the floor of the sea.
The tails of a stingray are normally longer than their disc width and typically have one or more long spines behind the pelvic fin, which are barbed at the tip and used for self-defense.
The venom from a stingray was used by ancient Greek dentists as an analgesic. The ancients extracted the toxic venom from the spine of the stingray and used it to kill pain.
Can a Sting From a Stingray Kill?
The ray is a normally a docile creature, but it is often misunderstood and regarded as a dangerous creature because some rays have a sting ability. Rays that possess a sting do not normally attack unless they have been seriously threatened and they are unable to swim away, which is their primary reaction to threat. However, the rays defense will be to sting their predator if necessary.
Many people walking on the beach in places like California in America, are often accidentally stung by stingrays after stepping on them whilst walking in shallow waters of the ocean. People are often advised to shuffle their feet as they walk in sand on the edge of warm waters of the ocean, especially where rays are known, to try and avoid stepping on a docile creature and getting stung. A sting from a stingray is rarely fatal but can cause terrible pain and swelling of the body part stung as venom from the ray enters the blood stream.
It is known that the venom that is embedded in the tail spines of stingrays can kill small creatures and cause acute pain to humans. It is extremely rare for the shy fish to kill humans, but it does happen. An Australian zookeeper died after the serrated barb of a string ray penetrated his heart. The fatal moment was caught on film, and it is thought that the stingray killed the man as a defense reflex and ejected its sting because the man got too close to it. The sting was so powerful that it punctured the man's chest, which was a fatal wound. His death was thought to be the third recorded fatal stingray sting in Australia.
My Experience of a Stingray in Lanzarote
I took my son on a submarine safari in the Canary Island of Lanzarote, which is located in the Atlantic ocean northwest from Africa. There was a giant manta ray swimming along side the submarine side-by-side with a man who was feeding it titbits. It was an amazing sight to see this majestic-looking animal up close.
There are a number of rays that can be seen in Lanzarote and the surrounding location of the Atlantic ocean, and the most common ones to be seen are the common stingray, roughtail stingray, eagle ray, and torpedo Ray. Through the summer months of July and August, there have been sightings of the spiny butterfly ray, which is beautiful and a pleasure to see. There are also occasional sightings of manta/devil rays and the short-tailed ray that turn up at all different times of the year.
Beautiful Rays Are All Across the Oceans of the World
We are surrounded by beautiful rays in the oceans around the world, but few people see them unless they are unfortunate enough to get stung whilst walking through shallow waters.
If you have ever come across a stingray or any kind of ray, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.
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Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on August 05, 2020:
Thanks for reading Pamela and remember to shuffle your feet when walking in the sea to prevent getting stung, especially in Florida.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 05, 2020:
This is an good article about stingrays. I knew nothing about them before and I live near the ocean. Thnk you for writing this article.
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on August 04, 2020:
Thank you Ankita B for reading.
Ankita B on August 04, 2020:
Interesting article about Stingrays. Thank you for sharing.