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Southern Stingray Dasyatis americana


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Southern Stingray
credit: Dan Hershman/CCSA

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Family: Dasyatidae, Stingrays view all from this family

Description The southern stingray, Dasyatis americana, is a stingray of the family Dasyatidae (the Whiptail Stingrays) found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Brazil. It has a flat, diamond-shaped disc, with a mud brown, olive, and grey dorsal surface and white underbelly (ventral surface). The barb on its tail is serrated and covered in a venomous mucous, used for self defense.

The southern stingray is adapted for life on the sea bed. The flattened, diamond-shaped body has sharp corners, making it more angular than the discs of other rays. The top of the body varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, whilst the underside is predominantly white. The wing-like pectoral fins are used to propel the stingray across the ocean bottom, whilst the slender tail possesses a long, serrated and poisonous spine at the base, used for defence. These spines are not fatal to humans, but are incredibly painful if stepped on. The eyes are situated on top of the head of the southern stingray, along with small openings called spiracles. The location of the spiracles enables the stingray to take in water whilst lying on the seabed, or when partially buried in sediment. Water enters the spiracles and leaves through the gill openings, bypassing the mouth which is on the underside. Female stingrays can grow to a disc width of 150cm, contrary to the smaller male stingrays that reach maximum size at 67cm.

Dimensions Up to 5' (1.5 m) wide.

Warning Rays in the genus Dasyatis have a long whiplike tail with a venomous spine. These rays are potentially dangerous to swimmers and waders as they can inflict wounds characterized by intense pain and slow recovery. To prevent an encounter with a ray, shuffle your feet as you walk through the water so you nudge the ray on the side or from underneath: it is likely to swim away.

Habitat Estuaries, tidal flats & salt marshes, Ocean or bay shallows.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Texas.