Meet the Ray Family!
If you have ever had the privilege to dive with Rays in the past, you will understand how lucky you have been to dive with one of the oceans most majestic fish.
So, what are they?
A distant cousin of the shark, Stingrays and other rays like skates, electric rays, guitarfishes and sawfishes are classified as Batoidea, a type of cartilaginous fish and have around 500 described species in thirteen families.
Most species of Ray have flat bodies to facilitate them to camouflage themselves easily in the sand. Because their eyes are on top of their bodies they cannot see their prey and use smell and electro-receptors similar to those of sharks.
Rays come in all shapes and sizes from the smallest short-nose electric ray which is only 10 cm across and weighs 0.5 kg. To the giant oceanic manta ray which can grow up to a colossal 7 m across with a weight of about 1,350 kg.
Where can I find them?
They are pretty widespread and can be found in seas on the floor, across the world in both temperate and cold-water. The manta is an exception living in open waters and there are also a few fresh water species living in brackish bays and estuaries.
What do they eat?
As the Ray family is so diverse, their diet differes depending on which one you happen to talk to. Sting rays are carnivorous. This means that their diet consists of other animals and they are not a fan of the salad. Their diet consists mostly of small creatures that live on the sea floor. Worms, shrimp and squid as well as small fish, clams, oysters and sea snails are all on the menu for the sting ray.
On the other hand, the beastly manta ray actually has no teeth. The manta ray sieves its food particles out of the water using rows of tiny little plates in its mouth. They swim in such a way that their mouth acts as a funnel. This flushes food rich water into its mouth to be sorted. Mantas might be huge, but their diet consists mainly of tiny marine organisms including microscopic plankton, small fish and crustaceans.
What eats them?
Sharks, seals, sea lions and other large fish are all natural predators of the Ray family.
Are rays dangerous?
Fatal attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. Worldwide, only one or two fatal attacks against humans are reported each year. Rays are only dangerous if they feel threatened. Most stingray-related attacks on humans are to the lower legs and ankles. This is usually caused by someone accidentally standing on the buried ray. In self defence the frightened ray flips up it’s tail which hosts it’s sting to protect itself.
- The Ray family have no bones! Their skeletons are made completely of cartilage (just like the cartilage you have in your ears and nose). However, some parts of their skeleton, such as their vertebrae, is calcified.
- Electric rays are named for their ability to generate and discharge a strong electric current. They do this to stun prey and for defence from potential predators.
- Fossil records date stingrays back to the Jurassic period, 150 million years ago!
So, how do I meet the Ray family?
Now that you have been informally introduced, it is now time for you to meet! Rays can be found worldwide (including the UK believe it or not). Scuba Leeds organise a whole host of diving trips both home and abroad so your bound to meet a ray on one of them!
Head over to the trips page on the link below to get yourself on a trip you will never forget!