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Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana)

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Southern stingrays, also called Atlantic southern stingrays, are a normally docile animal that frequents warm, shallow coastal waters.

Description:

Southern stingrays have a diamond-shaped disc that is dark brown, gray or black on its upper side and white on the lower side. This helps southern stingrays camouflage themselves in the sand, where they spend most of their time. Southern stingrays have a long, whip-like tail with a barb at the end that they use for defense, but they rarely use it against humans unless they are provoked.

Female southern stingrays grow much larger than males. Females grow to about a 6-foot span, while males about 2.5 feet. Its maximum weight is about 214 pounds.

The southern stingray's eyes are on top of its head, and behind them are two spiracles, which allow the stingray to take in oxygenated water. This water is expelled from the stingray's gills on its underside.

Classification:

  • Kingdom:Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Myliobatiformes
  • Family: Dasyatidae
  • Genus: Dasyatis
  • Species: americana

Habitat and Distribution:

The southern stingray is a warm water species, and inhabits primarily shallow tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean (as far north as New Jersey), the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Feeding:

Southern stingrays eat bivalves, worms, small fish and crustaceans. Since their prey is often buried in the sand, they un-bury it by forcing streams of water out their mouth or flapping their fins over the sand. They find their prey using electro-reception and their excellent senses of smell and touch.

Reproduction:

Little is known about the mating behavior of southern stingrays, as it has not been observed often in the wild. A paper in the Environmental Biology of Fishes reported that a male followed a female, engaged in 'pre-copulatory' biting, and then the two mated. Females may mate with multiple males during the same breeding season.

Females are ovoviviparous. After a gestation of 3-8 months, 2-10 pups are born, with an average of 4 pups born per litter.

Status and Conservation:

The IUCN Red List states that the southern stingray is "of least concern" in the U.S. because its population appears to be healthy. But overall, it is listed as data deficient, because there is little information available on population trends, bycatch and fishing in the rest of its range.

A large ecotourism industry has arisen around southern stingrays. Stingray City in the Cayman Islands is a popular destination for tourists, who come to observe and feed the swarms of stingrays that gather there. While the stingrays animals are usually nocturnal, research conducted in 2009 showed that the organized feeding is effecting the stingrays, so that instead of eating during the night, they eat all day and sleep all night.

Southern stingrays are preyed upon by sharks and other fishes. Their primary predator is the hammerhead shark.

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