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What is a Stingray?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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A stingray is a type of ray, which is a cartilaginous fish that is related to a shark. The family of rays to which the stingray belongs is referred to as the Dasyatidae family. These fish are most common in subtropical marine bodies of water and coastal tropical waters. Stingrays are named after the stinger on their tail, which is barbed and utilized only for self defense. The stinger of the ray typically reaches 35 centimeters (13.7 inches) long, and it's underbelly has venomous glands which are housed in two grooves.

Some species of the stingray have a few stingers, while other species such as the Urogymnus asperrimus do not have a stinger at all. The underside of the stingray shows it's mouth, as well as a double row of gills. If two claspers, which are located on tail's base are present, the stingray is a male. Generally, because the rays have flat bodies they can conceal themselves in the environment. They do this very effectively by agitating sand and hiding underneath it.

Because the eyes of the ray sit atop of its body, and its mouth is underneath, rays are unable to see their prey. As a result of this anatomy, they use their keen sense of smell and electric-type receptors, which are similar to those of the shark, to sense their prey. Stingrays primarily feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. Generally, the mouth of the stingray is made up of two shell-crushing plates.

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Typically, the ray will not aggressively attack a human, however, may sting when it is inadvertently stepped on. In addition, stamping or shuffling one's feet when wading though water will encourage the stingray to swim away. The sting from a ray usually causes pain, inflammation, and cramps, related to the venom. In addition, infection from bacteria may occur at a later time. Although the injury is typically very painful, it is seldom life threatening unless a vital area is pierced.

Most of the time, the ray is docile and gentle. They generally avoid confrontation whenever possible. There are some types, however, especially the larger rays, that may be more aggressive and confrontational. Although they will typically avoid interaction with humans, it is better to simply admire their graceful beauty from afar and not attempt to get to close to them.

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