The eagle rays are a group of cartilaginous fish that are part of the family of Myliobatidae. Eagle rays are large species of rays that, unlike many ray species, tend to live in the open ocean rather than on the bottom of the sea. The Genus name of this type of fish is Aetobatus which is a word derived from the Greek meaning eagle (autos) and ray (batis).
Eagle Ray Habitat
The spotted eagle ray tends to inhabit warm, tropical waters. Eagle rays can be found worldwide wherever these conditions are found. Common habitats for eagle rays include the Caribbean Sea and the Indo-Pacific Oceans, where the Maldives are located.
The eagle ray is commonly spotted swimming in bays and around coral reefs. It spends most of its time, however, swimming in schools in the open water. Eagle rays swim in big groups just below the surface where they travel very long distances, but they usually return to their original location where they interact with other eagle rays.
Eagle Ray Appearance
The spotted eagle ray has a very long tail and a well-defined body that ranges from 48 cm to 9 meters in length. They have very numerous white spots around their inky blue bodies and a long tail that can reach up to 5 meters in length. The eagle ray also has a very angular disc and a long broad snout with a “v” shaped flap.
The eagle ray swims by moving its two wings vertically – sometimes it breaks the surface of the sea and gives the impression of two sharks traveling together. The eagle ray can also jump out and across the surface of the water.
Eagle Ray Diet
Eagle rays feed on mollusks and crustaceans such as clams, shrimp, oysters, octopus, squids, sea urchins as well as bony fishes. They crush the shells with their flattened and very strong teeth and are very fast swimmers, which allows them to hunt efficiently. This type of ray is very well-adapted with its shovel-shaped snout for searching for food in the mud for benthic invertebrates.
When they find their prey, the eagle ray crushes it with its teeth and uses the papillae in its mouth to separate the shells from the flesh. They are so proficient at the separation that scientific observations are yet to reveal pieces of shells inside an eagle ray’s stomach.
Eagle Ray Behavior Towards Scuba Divers
The eagle ray is generally considered to be a shy species wary of scuba divers and difficult to approach because they tend to swim away. Therefore they represent no real threat to scuba divers as long as they are left alone to enjoy their natural habitat without any difficulties.
Nevertheless, they are considered a potentially dangerous species due to their venomous tail spines that can inflict serious wounds if the human gets too close.
Eagle Ray Reproduction
Eagle rays are ovoviviparous specimens, meaning that their eggs develop inside the body and hatch within the mother. They tend to give birth to up to six young at a time.
Their mating behavior consists of many male eagle rays pursuing a female. The males grab the female and the one inserts a clasper into the female ray, keeping it there for 30 to 90 seconds; this makes it possible for females to mate with up to four males over a short period.
Threats to Eagle Ray
The spotted eagle ray is considered a “Near Threatened” species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). However, the spotted eagle ray is considered of minor commercial importance since the poor quality of the flesh makes it a difficult fish to eat. While eagle rays are often captured by humans, this is usually for aquarium purposes.
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