Animal Update: Southern Stingray

A second southern stingray was recently added to Atlantic Coral Reef!

Published June 25, 2019

The southern stingray is bottom-dwelling, often found in the western Atlantic Ocean. During the spring and summer months, this ray migrates to northern coastal waters as far as Cape Cod, then returns south to warmer waters in the fall and winter months.

Southern stingray

The southern stingray can be identified by its brown to gray coloration, its long tail and the pair of short fins at the base of its tail, known as claspers, which are used during breeding. Southern stingrays are viviparous—meaning that embryos are fertilized and developed inside of the female’s body, and the female gives birth to live pups. Pups are born in the summer and females give birth to an average of four pups per litter, but larger rays can give birth to as many as 10 pups!

These rays breathe in water through two openings just behind their eyes on their top side, called spiracles. The water is then expelled through two rows of five gill slits on their undersides. This allows the rays to breathe even when they are buried in the sand of the ocean floor!

Southern stingrays use a combination of touch, smell and an electric sense to find prey. Similar to their close relatives, sharks, southern stingrays use specialized organs to detect the electrical fields generated by their prey’s muscles and nerves. As they swim through the water, rays use their wing-like fins to uncover prey buried in the bottom of the sand after sensing their electrical presence.

Prey for these rays includes crabs, shrimp, clams, small fishes, marine worms and other crustaceans. The southern stingray’s mouth opening on its underside delivers food to powerful plates that enable the ray to crush the thick shells of its prey!

Stay tuned for more animal updates!

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Jellies in petri dish Welcome to the Jelly Jungle

Deep inside the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) building, the National Aquarium runs a little-known lab. Here we carry out the propagation of jellies, many of which later end up on exhibit in Jellies Invasion. Read on for a peek into the process!

Read the full story

Cold stunned turtle Cold Stunning: Where, How and Why?

Picture this: You’ve just spent a wonderful, late summer week on Cape Cod, swimming in the ocean and enjoying the sunshine with friends and family. As fall sets in, you know it’s time to head home. You get on the highway, but something strange happens … despite driving for hours, you end up back where you started. You feel sluggish, confused and exhausted. If you were a turtle, you just might be cold-stunned.

Read the full story

Related Stories

No Hands? No Problem: Tool Use Among Aquatic Animals

Published January 08, 2020

Looking Back at 2019: Rescue Recap

Published December 20, 2019