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Stingray Learning Center
Stingray City was created by accident in the 1980's, when fishermen, returning to port, anchored in the calm waters of North Sound to clean their catch and discard bait overboard. The stingrays, drawn by the smell of the fish, quickly became accustomed to the free meal and stayed. Today, the rays regularly dine on the squid provided by divers and snorkelers.
The Southern Stingray
Hildebrandt and Schroeder first described the Southern Stingray in 1928. The genus Dasyatis of the currently accepted scientific name is derived from the Greek word "dasys" meaning rough or dense and ("b)atus" meaning shark. Synonyms for Dasyatis americana include Trygon pastinaca, Dasyatis scabrata, and Dasibatus hastatus.
The Southern Stingray is adapted for life on the sea bed. The flattened, diamond-shaped body has sharp corners, making it more angular than the discs of other rays 3. The top of the body varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, whilst the underside is predominantly white 2 3. The wing-like pectoral fins are used to propel the stingray across the ocean bottom, whilst the slender tail possesses a long, serrated and poisonous spine at the base, used for defence 4. These spines are not fatal to humans, but are incredibly painful if stepped on. The eyes are situated on top of the head of the Southern Stingray, along with small openings called spiracles. The location of the spiracles enables the stingray to take in water whilst lying on the seabed, or when partially buried in sediment. Water enters the spiracles and leaves through the gill openings, bypassing the mouth which is on the underside 3 4.
The Southern Stingray occurs in the western Atlantic, from New Jersey to Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and south to south-eastern Brazil 4. It is most abundant near Florida and the Bahamas 3.
The Southern Stingray is an active swimmer that feeds primarily at night, on a diet of invertebrates and small fishes. It feeds by flapping the wing-like pectoral fins to disturb the sand and expose the prey 2. This bottom-dwelling species is often found singly or in pairs, except in the summer months when it migrates in schools to higher latitudes 4 5.
Very little is known about the natural mating behaviour and reproductive biology of the Southern Stingray. Mating stingrays are rarely encountered in the wild; during one such rare occasion, the male was observed closely following the female, and then biting her before grasping the female's pectoral fins with his mouth, and then copulating. It is thought that Southern Stingrays are polyandrous, as a female was observed mating with two males in quick succession 6. The Southern Stingray is ovoviviparous, a method of reproduction in which the egg develops within the female's brood chamber. The pups hatch from their egg capsules inside the mother, and are born soon afterwards 5. In captivity, gestation lasted 135 to 226 days, after which a litter of two to ten young were born 7.
Fishing activities pose a potential threat to the Southern Stingray, either when caught accidentally along the east coast of the USA, or when deliberately targeted in parts of South America 1, where its flesh is sold 4.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN), considered the Southern Stingray to be Data Deficient due to the lack of information regarding the impacts of fishing on this species. It is therefore important that harvesting of this species in South America is monitored, and that population surveys and monitoring are undertaken 1. The Guy Harvey Research Institute is undertaking a research project on the Cayman Island stingrays. Research on behaviour, reproduction, genetics and population characteristics is being undertaken, the results of which will help inform management and conservation plans for this charismatic species 8.
For further information on the conservation of sharks and rays see:
IUCN Red List (June, 2007)
- Lieske, E. and Myers, R. (2001) Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
Southern stingray Biological Profile, Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History (August, 2007)
- Carpenter, K.E. (2002) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic, Volume 1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
MarineBio.org (August, 2007)
- Chapman, D.D., Corcorana, M.J., Harveya, G.M., Malanb, S. and Shivjia, M.S. (2003) Mating behaviour of Southern Stingrays, Dasyatis Americana (Dasyatidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 68: 241 - 245.
- Henningsen, A.D. (2000) Notes on reproduction in the Southern Stingray, Dasyatis Americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a captive environment. Copeia, 2000: 826 - 828.
Guy Harvey Research Institute (August, 2007)