Famed Australian ichthyologist Gilbert Percy Whitley originally described the critter we’ll be talking about in this blog post – all the way back in 1939! Whitley published his findings in the journal Australian Zoologist and described the specimen collected from the King George Sound off Albany in Western Australia. Introducing the western shovelnose stingaree (Trygonoptera mucosa), a stingray in the Urolophidae family that is seen off southwest Australia! Observed in shallow sand flats and seagrass beds, they love to eat polychaete worms and some invertebrates and bony fish.
The western shovelnose stingaree is a gray-brown colour with spots of varying shades on its dorsal side; below, they are pale with dark bands or blotches. They lack dorsal fins and skin folds, and a blunt snout with nostrils that have enlarged lobes. It is a small animal, only growing to be up to 37 centimetres (15 inches) in length. They are ovoviviparous, giving birth to one or two pups every year in late May or early June.
Endemic to Australia, they have a gestation period of about 12 months, and during this time the pregnant female produces histotroph ("uterine milk") to feed her pups while they develop. (Melissa note: We have it on good authority that histotroph smells and tastes like condensed milk.) The IUCN has assessed the western shovelnose stingaree as Least Concern (LC), although they tend to abort their young when stressed from being captured.
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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