The Fins United Initiative is excited to bring back the loved "Underrated Elasmobranch Spotlight" series through TFUI officer Jess Myers. Learn about the Chondrichthyans not shown on the big screen through her beautiful artwork... and check out the new name.
Today, I’m going to talk about a stingray that really knows fashion… or more so fashion knows this particular ray. The cowtail stingrays (Pastinachus ater) are one of the most popular species for the stingray skin trade.
Leather often comes from land animals like cows, but stingray leather is more common than one might think. Stingray and shark skin have been used as tools and leather for a very long time. Japanese samurai would use it to cover their armor and sword handles, because of its durability. This stingray leather, or shagreen, is in such high demand that there are even aquaculture businesses that farm stingrays just for their skin.
Most stingray leather comes from cowtail rays, also known as banana-tail rays. They get this name for the peculiar shape of their tail. This species in particular is in demand for its round dermal denticles, which they call “pearls” and their large size. They can grow up to 3 meters (~9 feet) long including their tail and almost 2 meters (6 feet) wide. They reproduce and grow slowly, like most elasmobranchs. You can find them in warm, shallow waters in the Indo-Pacific.
Despite the fact that these rays are being raised in farms to support the shagreen market, we still see a high level of commercial and recreational fishing. So much so that the population is considered Vulnerable (IUCN Red List 2020).
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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