Amazing Stingray Facts

Stingrays look like creatures from another planet, with their flat bodies and long, barbed tails.

These marine vertebrates are quite common and can be found in warm and shallow waters throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical regions, as well as freshwater lakes and rivers.

Discover what makes stingrays one of the most distinctive marine animals.

Amazing Stingray Facts

1. Stingrays Are Carnivores

Stingrays are carnivorous, preying on animals that live on or beneath the sand.

A study of diet reconstruction in southern stingrays along the Caribbean discovered that stingrays primarily fed on crustaceans, ray-finned fish, and worms.

According to additional research, the species consumed at least 65 different types of prey — up to 30 per day.

2. They Move by Flapping Their ‘Wings’

Stingrays appear to be flying through the water, but a closer look reveals a graceful flapping motion propelling them forward.

Most species move by undulating their bodies, much like an underwater wave, but others flap their sides up and down like wings.

The Save Our Seas Foundation discovered that stingrays in South Africa moved at 1.35 kilometers per hour (0.83 miles per hour), with some species migrating as far as 850 kilometers (528 miles). 2

3. Stingrays and sharks are closely related.

Stingrays may not have sharp teeth, but they share several characteristics with sharks. 

They are both cartilaginous fish (meaning their skeletons are supported by cartilage rather than bones) with similar skin.

They also use the same Lorenzini ampullae, which are special sensing organs that detect electrical signals emitted by prey.

4. Stingray babies are fully developed when they are born.

Puppies, or newborns, can swim and feed immediately after birth, and most species do not require any parental care.

Scientists are only now learning how being caught (even accidentally) can result in premature births in ray species.

According to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation, approximately 85% of blue stingray offspring died after being captured.

5. Females Are Larger Than Males

The females not only reach sexual maturity faster than males, but they also live longer.

Females and males of round stingrays, a particularly fast-growing species, reach 58% and 70% of their full size within the first year of life, respectively.

The females live an average of 15-22 years, whereas males live only five to seven years.

6. Stingray Touch Tanks Are a Touchy Subject

The research on whether or not stingrays like being touched is, at best, contentious.

For example, the AZA-certified Shedd Aquarium in Chicago published findings in 2017 indicating that the animals do not suffer and may even enjoy their interactions with humans.

5 However, 34 of the aquarium’s 42 cownose stingrays featured in the touch exhibit mysteriously died just a year later.

7. They Are Venomous

We all remember when stingray pierced the heart of beloved television personality and wildlife activist Steve Irwin in 2006.

Stingrays have long, thin tails with one to three venomous barbs attached, and the sting usually causes excruciating pain and an infection risk at the wound site.

According to the National Capital Poison Control Center, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 stingray injuries are reported in the United States each year, with the majority occurring on the legs or feet. 6

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Amazing Stingray Facts
Amazing Stingray Facts

8. They Sleep in the Sand

Stingrays sleep by burrowing their bodies in the sand and leaving their defensive barbs protruding to protect themselves.

This can be problematic in areas where humans enter the water, so beachgoers should perform the “stingray shuffle” to create vibrations in the sand and alert stingrays to their presence.

9. There are over 200 different species of stingrays.

According to experts, there are approximately 220 different species of stingrays in the world’s oceans, lakes, and freshwater rivers.

With a wingspan of over 7 feet, white spots, and tiny eyes, the smalleye stingray is one of the ocean’s rarest species (hence the nickname). 

There were only a few sightings prior to the early 2000s, but they are becoming more common; researchers have seen 70 individuals off the coast of southern Mozambique in the last 15 years.

10. Some Species Chew Their Food

Using high-speed cameras, biologists at the University of Toronto captured freshwater stingrays eating soft fish, shrimp, and hard-shelled dragonfly nymphs.

The findings suggested that mammals and stingrays had independently evolved similar methods of breaking down food.

Previously, mammals were thought to be the only animals that chewed their food.

11. They Lived at the Same Time as Dinosaurs

A team from the University of Vienna’s Institute of Paleontology discovered a fossil stingray over 50 million years old in 2019.

The study discovered new links between radiation and the Cretaceous mass extinction event.

Further molecular evidence suggested that modern stingrays diverged from a sister group around 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic.

12. Stingrays Are Different Than Manta Rays

Though they are frequently grouped together, stingrays and manta rays are not the same.

The mouth of a manta ray is located along the front edge of its body, whereas the mouth of a stingray is located on the underside of its body. 

Manta rays, like stingrays, lack the stinger or barb on their tail and live in the open ocean rather than on the seafloor.

13. They can grow to be quite large.

In 2009, a 14-foot-long freshwater stingray weighing between 700 and 800 pounds was caught and released in Thailand. The female Himantura polylepis stingray, one of the largest freshwater fish ever documented, was also estimated to be between 35 and 40 years old.

14. They have the ability to detect magnetic fields.

In 2020, scientists tested yellow stingrays to see if they could use the earth’s magnetic field to maintain their sense of direction while navigating their environment. 

They discovered evidence that stingrays can not only detect changes in the geomagnetic field, but also use it to their advantage by orienting themselves and maintaining a heading during navigation. 10

15. Over 25 stingray species are threatened.

At least 26 stingray species are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

Most species are poorly known, and their populations are declining, complicating conservation efforts.

The roughnose cowtail ray is one of the endangered species, with a population that has declined by 50% to 79% in the last 60 years due to exploitation and habitat loss.

Amazing Stingray Facts
Amazing Stingray Facts

Amazing Stingray Facts

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