Stingrays – A Great Predator Exposed
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
Over the past year I’ve come to learn quite a bit of information about the ocean. Most of that information has come from writing for you guys. This week I’d like to focus on a marine animal that I was fortunate enough to see up close when I was just 9 years of age. My mom and dad decided it would be a great idea to take me on a deep water fishing charter. All they had to do was say it involved going on a boat and I was in. So, on my 9th birthday we went down to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and did just that.
We had only been out on the water for maybe an hour when I got my first hit on the line. Granted I’m only a small boy at the time, but I fought whatever was on the other end of the line like crazy. It had to have gone on for at least a 20 minutes. Now, we were expecting to catch lots of dogfish shark. That was the captain’s original thought anyway. And to be fair, we did wind up with several in the boat. However, this particular reel fight would bring up something most unexpected. After the 20 minutes of winding away and watching the nimble rod bend over and over, I had caught my first – and only to date – Stingray! To be honest, I had no idea what it was when it surfaced. I realized the other day that I’m still not very educated on their anatomy or purpose so I did some research to share this week.
Upon getting the ray in the boat that day, I noticed something that struck me strange. The long and pointy tail that I so often associated with the bottom dweller had been cut off. As it turns out, fisherman will often do this simply as a “safety” measure. The venom from a stingray and from being stabbed by the sharp tail are a stingray’s only means of predatory activity and self-defense. The stinger itself is razor-sharp. In many cases, it might also be serrated or barbed. The stinger – since attached to the end of the extremely flexible and agile tail – can be whipped around from any direction making it an effective tool for keeping prey from making an escape. The size of sting depends on which species you are dealing with. Some of these guys can reach an adult size of 14ft long including the tail, and have a larger stinger as you may expect. Believed to be very closely related to sharks, the stingray is a carnivorous animal. This means that they’re diet consists of meat and meat alone. These bottom-dwellers are fortunate enough to have a fairly extensive menu to choose from for dinner time! They prey on a variety of animals including crabs, mollusks, clams, oysters, snails and even some species of fish.
Stingrays – while a great predator – are not entirely safe from becoming prey themselves. Thanks to its larger size, there are very few natural predators the stingray has to worry about. Also, the way the body of a stingray is shaped allows them to rest relatively flattened on the ocean floor. This maneuver is useful in hunting and keeping from being the hunted. The only predators that keep the stingray on figurative “toes” are sharks, seals, sea lions and larger carnivorous fish. Luckily, their numbers in terms of population are fairly non-threatened. Stingrays are known to breed in the winter months. A female will give birth to up to 15 stingrays in each litter. The baby will develop inside of the mother for around the same amount of times as humans, and will feed on the remaining yolk in their individual egg sacks. Whenever they run out of the yolks, the baby stingrays feed off of milk in the uterus of the female. Eager for learning the life of a stingray, they are ready to swim and hunt all over the place with their mother pretty much immediately!
It’s a privilege to write about all these amazing creatures. I hope that every blog I write is as educational for you all as they are for me. If you have any topics that you would like to see discussed, let us know or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!