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Interesting Facts about Jenkins' Whipray

[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Order: Myliobatiformes] [Family: Dasyatidae]

One of the large saltwater stingrays is a species with wide kite-shaped pectoral fins and the adults can grow up to one and a half metres across the wingspan.

This segment contains facts and information about Jenkins' whiprays, including where to find them, what they eat, and how they reproduce.

Pateobatis Jenkinsii Habitat and Distribution

The scientific name for the Jenkins' whipray is Pateobatis jenkinsii (not to be confused with the pink whipray). Its common names include:

Most marine ray fishes (batoids) are bottom-dwellers with broad fins.

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 50 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).

Characteristics of Jenkins' Whiprays

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. Pale, yellowish brown dorsum colouring, and light patches at the front of its eyes, help to 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. They are Myliobatiformes in the superorder Batoidea - ray fish.

The wingspan of an adult Jenkins' whipray measures about 150 centimetres across (59 inches), and they can grow up to 300 centimetres long (10 feet). Some of the largest stingrays can weigh more than fifty (50) kilograms (110 pounds).

Moving on...

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 wide open spaces adjacent to coral reef formations at the bottom of the ocean.

Most whiprays 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 some species of stingrays, the Jenkins' whipray rarely buries itself completely out of sight in the sand.

What Do Jenkins' Rays Eat?

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, Jenkins' whiprays (Pateobatis Jenkinsii) dig up sand pits looking for small sized benthic creatures, such as:

Pro Tip: The population of the Jenkins' 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 and cave entrances.

Breeding and Reproduction

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 23 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.

Threats and Predators

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.

Important: The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently lists the conservation status of Jenkins' whipray (Pateobatis jenkinsii) as being vulnerable (VU).

Related Information and Help Guides

Note: The short video clip [53 seconds] presented by 'Scuba Alex' contains footage of a Jenkins' whipray hiding underneath a rocky overhang in one of the Koh Tao dive sites.

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