Jupiter Marine Spotlight: Roughtail Stingray
Roughtail Stingray (Dasyatis centroura)
Stingrays have diamond shaped bodies with the snout and wings pointed and with a long slender whip-like tail, that has many rows of venomous barbs and can grow up to 2.5 times the length of the body. The Roughtail Stingray body has an irregular row of spines and bumps down mid back and onto its tail and the color ranges from dark brown to an olive tone. The underside is white, while the tail is black. The average width of an roughtail stingray is 4-6ft (not including the tail), with the females being larger than the males. The largest Roughtail Stingray recorded was 82 inches wide and weighed 800 lbs.
One can find Roughtail Stingrays from the coast of Massachusetts to Brazil, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and Angola. In the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, they are found near shore, where during the summer months, they are more found in bays, estuaries and coastal waters. From December to May, Roughtail Stingrays tend to migrate to northern waters. This ray prefers sandy bottoms where it will spend most of its time partially buried in the sand but is also known to venture out to a depth of 600ft.
Roughtail Stingrays generally breed in Autumn or early winter. Gestation lasts 4 months, and females usually give birth around April. Stingrays have one litter a year, producing between 2 and 6 young. Roughtail stingrays are born fully developed and relatively large, what increases their chances of survival. After birth, young rays receive no further care from their mother and can find food on their own. It’s not quite clear how long Roughtail Stingrays live, but it’s assumes that large rays will live about 70 years, with some living over 100 years.
The daily menu for the Roughtail Stingray consists of small fishes and bottom living invertebrates, including crustaceans, mollusks and worms. But after stomach content analyses it showed that squid and cuttlefish are also part of their diet. The Roughtail Stingray can detect electrical waves produced by other organisms and use this ability to find prey buried in the sand.
The main predator of the rays are sharks. They’ll bury themselves in the sand to avoid visual detection, and will also use their barbed spine as a defense. This is not always successful. Especially with the Great Hammerhead shark, which has a unique method of eating stingrays.
They pin down the ray with their uniquely shaped head, and then pivot around to bite the rays disc. In Jupiter, we’re lucky to see quite a few Stingrays while we’re diving along our Jupiter Ledges and the wrecks. Especially in the winter months. When approached cautiously, they’ll let you come close and observe them for a while before swimming away to a quieter spot.