[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Order: Myliobatiformes] [Family: Dasyatidae]
The electric blue spots of these small whiptail stingrays help to identify the species. But beware... there's a deadly sting in those tail spines.
This section contains facts and information about bluespotted ribbontail rays, such as where these venomous rays live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.
The scientific name for bluespotted ribbontails is Taeniura lymma. But, other common names include:
Most marine ray fishes are oval shaped bottom-dwellers with broad fins (e.g. batoids).
There are over 220 stingray species and they are all cartilaginous fishes related to sharks (chondrichthyans). They thrive best in some shallow intertidal benthic zones (not deeper than 30 metres) of the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans.
Keep in mind...
In general, sea rays are highly adaptable and they live in a somewhat cosmopolitan distribution. As a result, some species prefer temperate habitats with brackish environments.
Whereas, others can only survive in freshwater systems, such as the river stingray and some species of Dasyatidae (called stingarees or whiptail stingrays).
It is fair to say that stingrays do not have the same appearance as most marine vertebrates. But, despite having a wide flat body - stingrays are actually fish that fall in the phylum of shark. Bright blue spots, yellowish brown body, and double blue stripes on the tail define this species.
Plus, being a cartilaginous species means they do not have skeletal bones. Instead, cartilage material (like the one inside a human nose) supports the disk shape of their body. Thus, they are Rajiformes in the superorder Batoidea (ray fish).
The wingspan of an adult bluespotted ribbontail ray measures about 35 centimetres across (14 inches) and they can grow to be 80 centimetres long (31 inches). It would be rare for an adult to weigh more than five kilograms (11 pounds).
The stingray has evolved into a master of disguise and concealment in sand and muddy seabeds. In the main, it is the colours and patterns depicted on their dorsal surface that enhances their natural camouflage techniques.
So, how do stingrays swim? Actually, they have more than one method of movement through the water. Some use an "undulating" motion to propel themselves.
Whereas, many of the other stingray species tend to flap their winglike fins to "fly" and "glide" (e.g. like big birds) near to coral reef formations at the bottom of the ocean.
Blue spotted stingrays use the pectoral fins for movement and large spiracles on the upper surface of the head for taking in water (e.g. for respiration). They also spend time at designated cleaning stations for close up interactions with bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus).
Fun Fact: Some Myliobatiformes can adjust their body colouring to match their surroundings within a few days of settling at a new habitat. But, unlike most species of stingrays, the bluespotted ribbontail rarely bury itself entirely out of sight in the sand.
The feeding strategies used by different marine rays varies according to the species. Some use their strong jaws to crush critters with hard shells. Others use cephalic lobes to filter feed on planktonic organisms.
Most of the benthic stingrays (residing on or near the sea floor) are typical ambush hunters, using the sit-and-wait strategy. Once a prey swims by - and gets close enough - they will capture it by stealth and suction (like many of the shark species).
This is the important part:
The electrical sensors and the mouth of a stingray are underneath its body. It presses its pectoral fins against the substrate (usually sandy), to lift up its head. The suction generated is sufficient to pull small prey underneath its body for swallowing.
Plus, the carnivore ray species with strong jaw teeth can crush most of the marine mollusks that have tough outer shells. When feeding, bluespotted ribbontail stingrays dig up sand pits looking for small sized benthic bony fishes, and:
Pro Tip: The population of the bluespotted ribbontail ray is quite abundant and widespread around the world. So, scuba divers see them most often hiding alone under coral ledges, around sunken shipwrecks, or inside dimly lit caverns.
For the most part, female stingrays give birth one time per year, usually in late Spring. The majority of the species can deliver large litters of up to seven (7) live young each time (although litters or three are more common).
Scientists believe that the gestation period for most Myliobatiformes can be anything from four (4) to twelve (12) months.
As the baby stingray grows and develops inside its mother, it will be large enough (about 13 centimetres across) to resemble a miniature version of an adult when it is actually born into the water column. From then on, the mother leaves the young stingray to fend for itself.
The venomous tail spines of some ray species, especially the poisoned barb of the bluespotted ribbontail ray, can cause severe injuries for humans. Another section contains more information about fish spine injury and first aid treatment.
Despite being a highly intelligent sea creature, the threats to the survival of most sea rays are plentiful. Some of the most serious activities threatening them, include:
In addition, hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna), killer whales (orcas), and even bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops) will eat most of the small sized Myliobatiformes.
Note: The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the conservation status of bluespotted ribbontail rays (T. lymma) as being of Least Concern (LC).
Note: The short video [1:57 seconds] presented by 'Deep Marine Scenes' contains footage of bluespotted stingray fish swimming in their natural habitat.