[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Superorder: Batoidea] [Cartilaginous Fishes]
There are more than 600 different species of rays (called batoids). You can find most of them living in marine and oceanic environments all over the world.
This section contains facts and information about ray fish, including where they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.
Almost all ray fishes are bottom-dwellers, living in the benthic zones of tropical and subtropical ecosystems.
By and large, scientists classify marine rays into the following groups:
Fun Fact: The majority of ray fish are highly adaptable with 'cosmopolitan distribution'. As a result, some species can also survive in temperate, brackish, or freshwater environments.
Rays are cartilaginous fishes, like their close relatives the shark species (subclass Elasmobranchii). But, there are several distinguishing features that scientists use to differentiate them.
Pro Tip: Research suggests that most rays and skate fish (Rajidae) have good vision - especially when the light is dull or faint. They may also be capable of recognising different colours.
The spines that exist on the tail of a stingray can pierce human skin. Each spine contains a sheath that will break apart upon contact. As a result, the venom of the spine can release into the puncture wound and any surrounding tissue.
So, stingrays don't bite you per se. But, the sting that occurs from a tailwhip will most often cause pain in the feet, ankles, and lower legs.
The role of large, bottom-dwelling predators like sea rays and sawfish is important for the ecology and health of ecosystems that exist on the seabed.
The feeding methods of most ray species, known as 'habitat engineering', tends to stir up the sediment. In turn, this action provides other predators with easy access to buried invertebrates.
Manta rays feed on plankton and small animals; others take:
The majority of batoids have heavy, rounded teeth. They use them to crush the shells of some bottom-dwelling species that are difficult to eat, such as clams and oysters.
Sexual maturity for a female ray usually occurs around the age of eight. So, they tend to give birth one time every two or three years.
The geographic range, and the time of year, determines when rays start to mate. Even so, the individuals tend to perform their courtship ritual in shallow water. Scientists believe a full moon may be the trigger needed for the mating sequence.
This is the important part:
It can take more than twenty minutes for the male to grasp the female's pectoral fin with his mouth. After securing a tight grip, the male will rotate upside-down so that both ventral sides are close and pressed together.
Following the insertion, the male keeps hold of the female with his teeth as they continue swimming together. Even so, it's common for a few dozen males to follow the mating couple until they finally part company.
As with most ovoviviparous sea creatures, fertilisation of the eggs takes place inside the oviduct. So, an egg case encloses each fertilised egg while the embryo absorbs the yolk as it starts to develop.
The pups remain inside the oviduct after hatching. They will be receiving extra nutrition from a milky secretion produced by the female.
There is no umbilical cord or placenta. Hence, unborn pups will be totally reliant on a process of buccal pumping to get the oxygen that they need. The typical brood size for most rays is usually one (1) but rarely more than two.
Interesting Fact: Marine biologists believe the gestation period for manta rays to be around twelve (12) months. The pup will look like a miniature adult when the female expels it from the oviduct. From this point in time, there will be no further parental care.
A fish with a flattened body, that is actually a lot wider than its length, and a short whiplike tail defines the manta ray as being one of the biggest of all Batoidea (ray fish).
Most of the small rays thrive in shallow waters near to coastal reefs. As a result, some reef manta rays tend to 'interact' more often with scuba divers and snorkelers.
This section contains fun and interesting facts about manta rays (genus Mobula), including where they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.
Another article highlights some interesting facts about the giant oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris), such as where to find them, their diet, and the reproductive cycle.
Skates are cartilaginous fishes that belong to the family Rajidae. Even though they look like rays, there are several key features and traits that set them apart.
This section contains facts and information about skate fish, including where they live, what they eat, and the reproductive cycle for the family Rajidae.
Most of the eight flat-bodied families of stingrays of the order Myliobatiformes possess superb camouflage and a sting in the tail. Some of the most common stingray fish species include:
Note: The short video [6:11 seconds] presented by 'BBC Earth' contains rare footage of a stingray fish ambushing an army of crabs.