Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of this stingray is its long, whip-like tail, which may be 2.5 times as long as the body. The many thorny plates, or tubercles, on the outer parts of the body, or disc, and along the base of the tail give this species its common name, roughtail. Like other stingrays, the roughtail has one or two sharp, serrated spines, which are equipped with venom glands and covered with an integumentary sheath—a thin layer of skin.
Normally gentle, when attacked by would-be predators or stepped on by unwary humans, the animal lashes its tail. The spine and its barbs pierce the integumentary sheath as they lacerate the skin of the victim, allowing venom to enter the wound.
The roughtail ray searches over sandy and muddy substrates, often burrowing into the sediment, to feed on bottom-dwelling, or benthic, invertebrates and fishes.
This is the largest stingray in our exhibit. In the wild, this species has been reported to reach 7 feet across and weigh almost 450 pounds.
The roughtail ray is found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean: in the eastern Atlantic from southern France to Angola, including the Mediterranean Sea, and in the western Atlantic from Maine to the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and southward to Uruguay.
The roughtail ray is not a threatened species.
Roughtail rays have few predators and are of only minor importance to commercial fisheries. The ray is marketed fresh, smoked and dried and is used for fishmeal and oil.
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