Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari), members of the eagle ray family, Myliobatidae. These are probably some of Melissa's favourite rays because of their sheer beauty, size and how abundant they are in her (tropical) dives. Even though they are frequent visitors (or maybe she's just the spotted eagle ray whisperer), they are considered Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and decreasing. However, no data is available on population trends.
These rays are easily distinguished from their family members by its black skin tone with white spots (they have a white underbelly, too). Current research is debating on whether this one species is actually numerous species! This research focuses on identifying individual spots on the spotted eagle rays, like whale sharks, and DNA.
The recorded maximum weight of these rays is 230 kg (507 lbs); they can get up to 9 meters (29.5 ft) in total length with a disc length (DL) of around 3.5 meters (11.5 ft). Like a cownose ray, their faces are unique as well—except they mimic a duck’s bill, rather than a cow’s nose. Spoiler Alert: They don't quack. And, we can’t forget to mention that they also have a long tail! A whip-like tail that has a spine near the base of it, they are poisonous. They are generally shy of humans and tend to avoid human contact.
Also similar to the cownose ray, spotted eagle rays feed on crabs, but they truly delight in bivalves. They are known to nom-nom on shrimp, octopus, worms, whelks and small fishes, too. A cosmopolitan animal, they usually forage for their prey in shallow inshore waters but are known to cross oceanic basins.
There are a few deaths caused by spotted eagle rays. Remember that sheer beauty? Yeah, not too pretty when it’s hurtling out of the water and into your face. These rays have the habit of leaping out of the water… and sometimes they jump right into your boat! Don't worry, though, it doesn't happen often. Spotted eagle rays, like other rays, often fall victim to sharks (e.g. tiger shark, lemon shark, great hammerhead shark). This ray is taken as bycatch in much of its range in tropical and warm temperate seas. In the United States, the state of Florida outlaws the fishing, landing, purchasing and trading of the spotted eagle ray.
what are your thoughts on this animal?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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