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Southern Atlantic Stingray
Dasyatis americana

In mathematics, a "ray" is a straight line extending away from a singular point, not unlike a ray of sunshine. In marine biology, a "ray" is type of broad, flattened, cartilaginous fish closely related to the sharks.

In Cayman, although there are also found many eagle rays and an occasional manta ray, generally what folks call a "ray" is a Southern Atlantic Stingray (dasyatis americana), also more simply called Southern Stingray, or just Stingray or Ray.

In Grand Cayman, these fascinating and marvelous animals can be easily found, and hand fed in the water, on regular dive and snorkel trips run to Stingray City and Sandbar in the North Sound.

Southern Stingrays are the most common of the stingray family and may be found from New Jersey to Brazil. They live in shallow bays, sounds, and in-shore waters where sandy bottoms are abundant. Stingrays feed primarily on mollusks and crustaceans for which they borrow in the sand and on the occasional small fish. Sharks feed on stingrays, barbed tail notwithstanding.

Stingrays take their name from the barbed spine(s) at the base of their long, whip-like tail. Rays have broad, flat, almost disk-shaped bodies with no distinct head. Their have eyes on their top, a blunt but slightly pointed snout, and large pectoral fins on the side with which they gracefully swim. Stingrays have strong, heavy cartilage dental plates with which they crush their food.

Southern Stingrays have white underbellies and slate gray, brown, or black upper surfaces. Wingspan can reach six feet (2 m) across on large individuals, however males are noticeably smaller than females. Stingrays bear live young.

buried in the sand Stingrays frequently lay buried in the sand and use their barbed tail to protect themselves from danger from above. However, stingrays are not aggressive and will flee from danger whenever possible. When swimming, Stingrays are not capable of directing their tail and are therefore rather defenseless.

Stingrays prowl the sandy ocean floor, looking constantly for crabs, shellfish, worms and so forth living in the sand. Sensing prey, they drop down onto the sand and cover the area with their body. Sometimes expelling the sand through the spiracles located just behind their eyes on top, they almost serenely carve out a depression in the sand as they feed. Of course, feeding at Stingray City is another matter altogether!

Until Stingray City was developed, Stingrays were mostly just ignored in Cayman. Now there's an entire part of the tourism industry aimed at visiting them and there's even a new local beer named for them.

For more information and other related links:

From here, we can continue our review of Cayman fauna.

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Last update: 30 September 1997
Copyright © 1997 Don Backstrom
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