I think it’s safe to say that the ocean harbors some of the most interesting animals on the planet. From the beautifully colored and deadly mantis shrimp to the covert scorpion fish, and the small guppies, we’ve got it all. We’ve even got some… shocking… individuals.
If you live in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, around the eastern shores of the US, the Gulf of Mexico and down the eastern coast of Central/South America, you might have snorkeled by these animals. They’ve been seen in the Pacific Ocean, too! They frequent shallow, coastal waters and like to bury beneath the sand or mud to hide from predators, like sharks. They might have swum by your foot, as they sometimes are seen in seagrass beds.
If you’re wondering what this mysterious animal is, let me formally introduce you to the Caribbean electric ray (Narcine bancroftii), order Torpediniformes. Quick fact: There are 69 species of electric ray in four families.
The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus).
This is one animal Melissa is definitely jealous her friends and officers in the UK get to dive with. They are the largest fish in British waters, reaching lengths up to 12 meters, and re-appear each spring and summer. They are second to only the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), and also a plankton-feeding shark species (the other two being the whale shark and megamouth shark).
So how can you identify these animals in their native habitat?
Well, first, look for the largest fish there. Once found, if it’s a giant, grey-blue-green color with a pale underside and its mouth is gaping open, it’s probably a basking shark. A special characteristic is their nose- it’s funny shaped.
We’ve decided to talk about these… unique… animals.
In the United States, we have two of the five sawfish species: the Smalltooth and Largetooth Sawfish. They both look like… well, like they got bored and attached chainsaws at the end of their faces. Because that’s a fun thing to do.
They “chainsaw” looking teeth don’t cut through wood, though, instead helping the sawfish locate and eventually kill their prey (mostly fish, sometimes crustaceans). Each side of their rostrum has around 20-30 teeth per each side, with males having broader teeth.
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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