Stingrays are flat-bodied rays noted for the long, sharp spines on their tails.
There are about 220 known stingray species organized into 10 families and 29 genera.
Stingrays are common in coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters throughout the world. There are species in warm temperate oceans, and some found in the ocean.
A stingray have lifespan between 15 and 25 years in the wild.
The river stingrays, and a number of whiptail stingrays (such as the Niger stingray), are restricted to fresh water.
Stingrays are disk-shaped and have flexible, tapering tails armed, in most species, with one or more saw-edged, venomous spines. Most stingrays have one or more barbed stings on the tail, which is used only for self defending.
They vary in size: Dasyatis sabina, a small western North Atlantic species, is mature at a width of about 25 cm (10 inches), but the Australian D. brevicaudata reportedly attains a width of about 2 meters (7 feet) and a length of 4 meters.
Stingrays typically have mottled skin that looks similar to the colors found on the sea floor. Their colors differ based on species and where they typically live, ranging from a light sand color to a darker, spotted brown for more rocky areas.
Stingrays settle on the bottom while feeding, often leaving only their eyes and tail visible.
The flattened bodies of stingrays allow them to hide themselves. Stingrays agitate the sand and hide beneath it.
Because their eyes are on top of their bodies and their mouths on the undersides, stingrays cannot see their prey after capture; instead, they use smell and electroreceptors (ampullae of Lorenzini) similar to those of sharks.
Some stingrays’ mouths contain two powerful, shell-crushing plates, while other species only have sucking mouth parts.
When they are inclined to move, most stingrays swim by undulating their bodies like a wave; others flap their sides like wings.
Many stingrays like to live by themselves and only come together for breeding and migration.
Stingrays are ovoviviparous. This means they give birth to live young after developing and retaining the eggs inside their bodies. They have “litters” of 5 to 13 young.
Stingrays present a majestic view as they glide through the water, almost like they’re flying. However, most species of stingray spend the majority of their time hiding from predators and waiting on feeding opportunities to present themselves. When they decide to go for a swim, they could become the next tasty meal of a variety of predators.
Stingray’s predators include large fishes, especially sharks. Stingray spines have been found embedded in the mouths of many sharks. The great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran, in particular, appears to specialize in eating stingrays. It uses its hammer head to knock a ray to the bottom, and then pins the ray, once again with its head, pivoting around to bite the ray’s disc until the ray succumbs and can be eaten.
They lash their tails when stepped on, and large stingrays can exert enough force to drive their tail spines into a wooden boat. The spines cause serious, extremely painful wounds that, if abdominal, may result in death.
Rays are edible, and may be caught as food using fishing lines or spears. Stingray recipes abound throughout the world, with dried forms of the wings being most common.
Stingray species are progressively becoming threatened or vulnerable to extinction, particularly as the consequence of unregulated fishing.
About 100 species have been listed as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN. The status of some other species is poorly known, leading to their being listed as data deficient.
The skin of the ray is used as an under layer for the cord or leather wrap (known as ito in Japanese) on Japanese swords due to its hard, rough, skin texture that keeps the braided wrap from sliding on the handle during use.
In ancient Greece, venom was actually extracted from stingray spines for the purpose of being used as an anesthetic by dentists.
Several ethnological sections in museums, such as the British Museum, display arrowheads and spearheads made of stingray stingers, used in Micronesia and elsewhere.
Fossil records of stingrays date all the way back to the Jurassic era – 150 million years ago.