Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The southern stingray is an active swimmer that feeds primarily at night, on a diet of invertebrates and small fishes. They feeding by flapping their wing-like pectoral fins to disturb the sand, and expose their prey (2). This bottom-dwelling species is often found singly or in pairs, except in the summer months when it migrates in schools to higher latitudes (4) (5). Very little is known about the natural mating behaviour and reproductive biology of the southern stingray. Mating stingrays are rarely encountered in the wild; during one such rare occasion, the male was observed closely following the female, and then biting her before grasping the female's pectoral fins with his mouth, and then copulating. It is thought that southern stingrays are polyandrous, as a female was observed mating with two males in quick succession (6). The southern stingray is ovoviviparous, a method of reproduction in which the egg develops within the female's brood chamber. The pups hatch from their egg capsules inside the mother, and are born soon afterwards (5). In captivity, gestation lasted 135 to 226 days, after which a litter of two to ten young were born (7).
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Description

The southern stingray is adapted for life on the sea bed. The flattened, diamond-shaped body has sharp corners, making it more angular than the discs of other rays (3). The top of the body varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, whilst the underside is predominantly white (2) (3). The wing-like pectoral fins are used to propel the stingray across the ocean bottom, whilst the slender tail possesses a long, serrated and poisonous spine at the base, used for defence (4). These spines are not fatal to humans, but are incredibly painful if stepped on. The eyes are situated on top of the head of the southern stingray, along with small openings called spiracles. The location of the spiracles enables the stingray to take in water whilst lying on the seabed, or when partially buried in sediment. Water enters the spiracles and leaves through the gill openings, bypassing the mouth which is on the underside (3) (4).
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Comprehensive Description

D. americana ZBK

- USNM 88378 (holotype) (male, 931 mm TL, 436 mm DW); MNRJ 11232 (female, 715 mm TL, 358 mm DW); MZUSP 9916 (female, 856 mm TL, 343 mm DW); MZUSP 12757 (male, 690 mm TL, 190 mm DW); MZUSP 9925 (male, 667 mm TL, 411 mm DW); MZUSP uncataloged (male, 630 mm TL, 194 mm DW); MZUSP 28734 (male, 615 mm TL, 178 mm DW); AMNH 44086 (female, 446 mm TL, 160 mm DW); AMNH 44086 (female, 520 mm TL, 179 mm DW); AMNH (female, 611 mm TL, 235 mm DW); AMNH 74722 (female, 895 mm TL, 378 mm DW).

  • Hugo Ricardo Secioso Santos, Ulisses Leite Gomes, Patricia Charvet-Almeida (2004): A new species of whiptail stingray of the genus Dasyatis Rafinesque, 1810 from the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes: Dasyatidae). Zootaxa 492, 1-12: 2-2, URL:http://www.zoobank.org/urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:014FFEF7-4937-401D-8C46-5E4104444056
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Biology

Found on sandy bottoms, seagrass beds, lagoons and the reef face (Ref. 12951). Common in bays and estuaries (Ref. 7251). Observed singly, in pairs and in aggregations (Ref. 12951). Buries in the sand during the day and forages at night, usually in seagrass beds (Ref. 12951). Feeds mainly on bivalves and worms and also takes shrimps, crabs and small fishes (Ref. 3168). Feeds by creating depressions in the sand to expose invertebrates and small fishes (Ref. 9710). Ovoviviparous, with 3-4 in a litter (Ref. 12951). May be found in cleaning stations where they are attended to by the bluehead wrasse and Spanish hogfish (Ref. 12951). Equipped with a well-developed serrated spine and capable of inflicting a painful laceration. Easily approached by divers (Ref. 9710).
  • Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray 1986 A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 354 p. (Ref. 7251)
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Distribution

Southern stingrays are found in the the western Atlantic Ocean from New England to Brazil, with abundant populations in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies, Bahamas, coastal Belize, and the southern coast of Florida.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native )

  • Chapman, D., M. Corcoran, G. Harvey, S. Malan, M. Shivji. 2003. Mating behavior of southern stingrays, Dasyatis americana (Dasyatidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 68: 241–245.
  • Gilliam, D., K. Sullivan. 1993. Diet and feeding habits of the Southern stingray. Bulletin of Marine Science, 52(3): 1007-1013.
  • Henningsen, A., R. Leaf. 2010. Observations on the Captive Biology of the Southern Stingray. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 139: 783–791.
  • Kajiura, S., L. Macesic, T. Meredith, K. Cocks, L. Dirk. 2009. Commensal Foraging Between Double-crested Cormorants and a Southern Stingray. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 121(3): 646–648.
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Range Description

A coastal species that is widely distributed from New Jersey to Florida (USA), throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and bordering the northern coast of South America to southeastern Brazil. It is abundant in nearshore waters in the northeast Gulf of Mexico, especially along the west coast of Florida and is common during summer months in estuaries and coastal areas along the east coast of the U.S. It is common throughout most of the Greater and Lesser Antilles.

In Brazil known from Santos, São Paulo, Bahia, northward from Paraíba, Ceará, and Pará and Amapá (Figueiredo 1977, Rosa 1987, Cunningham 1989, Gadig and Rosa 1993, Queiroz et al. 1993a, Gadig et al. 2000, Menni and Stehmann 2000). Also reported from the Brazilian oceanic islands of Atol das Rocas (Rosa and Moura 1997) and Fernando de Noronha (Mendes and Moura 1999), and from the reefs of Parcel Manuel Luiz in Maranhão (Rocha and Rosa 2001).
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Western Atlantic: New Jersey, USA and northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil, including the Antilles
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Western Atlantic: New Jersey, USA and northern Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil, including the Antilles (Ref. 3168).
  • Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray 1986 A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 354 p. (Ref. 7251)
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Western Atlantic, from New Jersey to the southeast of Brazil.
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Range

The southern stingray occurs in the western Atlantic, from New Jersey to Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and south to south-eastern Brazil (4). It is most abundant near Florida and the Bahamas (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

This species is an elasmobranch (a cartilaginous fish) in the superorder Batoidea. Batoid species have a broad, flat, disc-shaped body that is formed by the fusion of the dorsoventrally flattened body, pectoral fins, and the head. In southern stingrays, the body and pectoral fins are expanded to form a diamond-shaped disc, which is about 1.2 times as broad as it is long, with females generally being larger than males. The disc width of Southern stingrays raised in captivity ranges from 48 to 53cm in males and 75 to 80cm for females. In captivity, the maximum reported disc width for male is 80cm and for female is 150cm. Wild southern stingrays have reached a maximum disc width of 200cm and a weight of 97kg. The tail can be up to twice as long as the body, and carries a sharp, serrated, venomous spine that is used in defense. The gills are located on the underside of the body. The eyes are located on top of the head, which is elevated above the rest of the body. Due to its feeding habits and elevated head, southern stingrays have spiracles that enable them to take in water dorsally. The skin is covered with denticles, which are scale-like body coverings. Body coloration ranges between dark gray, green, and brown.

Range mass: 87.7 (high) kg.

Range length: 150 (high) cm.

Average length: 75-80 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Henningsen, A. 2000. Notes on Reproduction in the Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a Captive Environment. Copeia, 2000(3): 826-828.
  • Passarelli, N., A. Piercy. 2006. "Southern Stingray" (On-line). Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 29, 2012 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/SouthernStingray/SouthernStingray.html.
  • Rosenberger, L. 2001. Pectoral fin locomotion in batoid fishes: undulation versus oscillation. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 204: 379-394.
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Size

Maximum size: 2000 mm WD
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Max. size

200 cm WD (male/unsexed; (Ref. 3168)); max. published weight: 135.6 kg (Ref. 40637)
  • IGFA 2001 Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA, Fort Lauderdale, USA. (Ref. 40637)
  • Stehmann, M., J.D. McEachran and R. Vergara R. 1978 Dasyatidae. In W. Fischer (ed.) FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes. Western Central Atlantic (Fishing Area 31). Vol. 1. [pag. var.]. FAO, Rome. (Ref. 3168)
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Diagnostic Description

Disk has sharp outer corners and irregular row of short spines on upper surface (Ref. 26938). Disk usually uniform dark brown above, grayer in young. Ventral finfold on tail long and high, dorsal finfold absent (Ref. 7251). Upper surface of disc gray, dark or olivaceous brown or olive green. Lower surface of disc white or whitish with an edging of gray or brown (Ref. 6902).
  • Smith, C.L. 1997 National Audubon Society field guide to tropical marine fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 720 p. (Ref. 26938)
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Type Information

Type for Dasyatis americana
Catalog Number: USNM 88378
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Preparation: Photograph
Collector(s): W. Schroeder
Year Collected: 1921
Locality: Crisfield, Md., Somerset County, Maryland, United States, Atlantic
  • Type:
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Ecology

Habitat

Southern stingrays are a marine species and are generally found in shallow waters (about 2 meters deep) of bays filled with sea grass beds and algal fields.

Range depth: 0 to 53 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; reef ; coastal

  • Cartamil, D., J. Vaudo, C. Lowe, B. Wetherbee, K. Holland. 2003. Diel movement patterns of the Hawaiian stingray, Dasyatis lata: implications for ecological interactions between sympatric elasmobranch species. Marine Biology, 142: 841–847.
  • Semeniuk, C., K. Rothley. 2008. Costs of group-living for a normally solitary forager: effects of provisioning tourism on southern stingrays Dasyatis americana. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 357: 271–282.
  • Yokota, L., R. Lessa. 2006. A nursery area for sharks and rays in Northeastern Brazil. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 75: 349-360.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
A coastal marine and estuarine benthic species associated with sand flats, seagrass beds, and coral reefs at depths of 0 to 53 m. Commonly buries in soft sediments.

Litters of 2 to 10 pups are born at 17 to 34 cm disc width (DW), after a gestation of 4.5 to 7.5 months, and maturity is reached at 51 and 75 to 80 cm DW (males and females, respectively). Reproduction is biannual in captivity, annual in the wild. Maximum size is 150 cm DW (Henningsen 2000, McEachran and de Carvalho 2002, D. Grubbs and J. Musick unpublished data).

The diet of this species has been studied in the Bahamas (Randall 1967, Gilliam and Sullivan 1993), Brazil (Queiroz et al. 1993) and the eastern USA (D. Grubbs, unpublished data) and consists of benthic and infaunal invertebrates and demersal teleosts. The most common prey are decapod crustaceans such as alphaeid, penaeid and callianasid shrimp and brachyuran crabs.

Life history parameters
Age at maturity (years): Unknown.
Size at maturity (disc width): 75 to 80 cm DW (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002) (female); 51 cm DW (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002) (male).
Longevity (years): Unknown.
Maximum size (disc width): 150 cm DW (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002).
Size at birth: 17 to 19 cm DW (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002, D. Grubbs and J. Musick unpublished data); mean 23.8 cm DW, range 20 to 34 cm DW (in captivity) (Henningsen 2000).
Average reproductive age (years): Unknown.
Gestation time: Mean 5.8 months; range 4.5 to 7.5 months (in captivity) (Henningsen 2000).
Reproductive periodicity: Biannual (in captivity) (Henningsen 2000); Annual (Florida and Virginia, USA) (D. Grubbs unpublished data).
Average annual fecundity or litter size: 2-7 (D. Grubbs and J. Musick unpublished data); mean 4.2, maximum 10 (in captivity) (Henningsen 2000).
Annual rate of population increase: Unknown.
Natural mortality: Unknown.

Systems
  • Marine
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Habitat Type: Marine

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benthic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Environment

reef-associated; brackish; marine; depth range 0 - 53 m (Ref. 13608), usually ? - 4 m (Ref. 55205)
  • Uyeno, T., K. Matsuura and E. Fujii (eds.) 1983 Fishes trawled off Suriname and French Guiana. Japan Marine Fishery Resource Research Center, Tokyo, Japan. 519 p. (Ref. 13608)
  • Florida Museum of Natural History 2005 Biological profiles: southern stingray. Retrieved on 26 August 2005, from www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/SouthernStingray/SouthernStingray.html. Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History: Education-Biological Profiles. FLMNH, University of Florida. (Ref. 55205)
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Depth range based on 240 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 98 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 79
  Temperature range (°C): 11.619 - 26.990
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 5.569
  Salinity (PPS): 33.112 - 36.352
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.711 - 6.300
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.047 - 0.505
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 3.545

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 1 - 79

Temperature range (°C): 11.619 - 26.990

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 5.569

Salinity (PPS): 33.112 - 36.352

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.711 - 6.300

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.047 - 0.505

Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 3.545
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth: 0 - 53m.
Recorded at 53 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated. Found in sandy bottoms, in seagrass beds, lagoons and the reef face (Ref. 12951). Common in bays and estuaries (Ref. 7251). Observed singly, in pairs and in aggregations (Ref. 12951). Buries in the sand during the day and forages at night, usually in seagrass beds (Ref. 12951). Feeds mainly on bivalves and worms and also takes shrimps, crabs and small fishes (Ref. 3168). Feeds by creating depressions in the sand to expose invertebrates and small fishes (Ref. 9710). Ovoviviparous, with 3-4 in a litter (Ref. 12951). May be found in cleaning stations where they are attended to by the bluehead wrasse and Spanish hogfish (Ref. 12951). Equipped with a well-developed serrated spine and capable of inflicting a painful laceration. Easily approached by divers (Ref. 9710).
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Inhabits shallow coastal and estuarine waters, and buries itself in sandy bottoms, and occasionally muddy bottoms, to a depth of 53 meters (3) (4).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Southern stingrays feed on multiple organisms throughout the day (more so at night), so they are considered to be continuous foragers and opportunistic feeders. One study found the stomach contents of a southern stingray to include prey from 15 families, in four phyla. Major prey were crustaceans, small fishes, and worms.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Found on sandy bottoms, seagrass beds, lagoons and the reef face (Ref. 12951). Common in bays and estuaries (Ref. 7251). Observed singly, in pairs and in aggregations (Ref. 12951). Buries in the sand during the day and forages at night, usually in seagrass beds (Ref. 12951). Feeds mainly on bivalves and worms and also takes shrimps, crabs and small fishes (Ref. 3168). Omnivore (Ref. 57616). Feeds by creating depressions in the sand to expose invertebrates and small fishes (Ref. 9710). Equipped with a well-developed serrated spine and capable of inflicting a painful laceration. Easily approached by divers (Ref. 9710).
  • Randall, J.E. 1967 Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Stud. Trop. Oceanogr. Miami 5:665-847. (Ref. 33)
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Associations

Southern stingrays act as predators of several marine fish and invertebrate species, as well as serving as prey to larger cartilaginous fish species (particularly hammerhead sharks). A commensal foraging relationship has been documented between southern stingrays and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), which are common coastal birds ranging from North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. As stingrays excavate the substrate in search of prey, they often stir up fish. The birds dive in and swim behind the stingrays to feed on snappers and grunts, though this is only possible in shallow waters. This stingray foraging habit also attracts follower organisms, which remain near a host in hopes of finding food. Some observed follower organisms of stingrays include Carangoides bartholomaei, Caranx latus, Cephalopholis fulva, Halichoeres radiatus, Halichoeres dimidiatus, Dactylopterus volitans, and Lactophrys trigonus. Bluehead wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) serve as mutualistic cleaner organisms for southern stingrays.

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Brooks, D., M. Mayes. 1980. Cestodes in four species of euryhaline stingrays from Colombia. Proceedings of the Helminthological Society of Washington, 47: 22-29.
  • Kohn, A., S. Cohen, G. Salgado-Maldonado. 2006. Checklist of Monogenea parasites of freshwater and marine fishes, amphibians and reptiles from Mexico, Central America and Caribbean. Zootaxa, 1289: 1-114.
  • Saunders, D. 1958. The occurrence of Haemogregarina bigemina Laveran and Mesnil, and H. dasyatis n. sp. in marine fish from Bimini, Bahamas, B.W.I.. Transactions of the American Microscopal Society, 77: 404-412.
  • Sazima, C., J. Krajewski, R. Bonaldo, I. Sazima. 2007. Nuclear-follower foraging associations of reef fishes and other animals at an oceanic archipelago. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 80: 351-361.
  • Snelson, F., S. Gruber, F. Murru, T. Schmid. 1990. Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana: Host for a Symbiotic Cleaner Wrasse. Copeia, 1990 (4): 961-965.
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The main predators of stingrays are humans. Another predator of southern stingrays are great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarra). The shape of this shark’s head enables it to hold down stingrays while feeding on them. Stingrays will often bury themselves in the sand to avoid detection by predators, and will also use their venomous tail spine in self defense.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Diseases and Parasites

Thaumatocotyle Infestation 2. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
  • Hargis, W.J. 1955 Monogenetic trematodes of Gulf of Mexico fishes. Part V. The superfamily Capsaloidea. Trans. Am. Micro. Soc. 74(3):203-225. (Ref. 46261)
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Loimopapillosum Infestation. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
  • Hargis, W.J. 1955 Monogenetic trematodes of Gulf of Mexico fishes. Part V. The superfamily Capsaloidea. Trans. Am. Micro. Soc. 74(3):203-225. (Ref. 46261)
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Entobdella Infestation. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
  • Hargis, W.J. 1955 Monogenetic trematodes of Gulf of Mexico fishes. Part V. The superfamily Capsaloidea. Trans. Am. Micro. Soc. 74(3):203-225. (Ref. 46261)
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

One report speculates that southern stingrays may communicate using pheromones. It was observed that the birth of offspring attracts males, leading scientists to suspect that birth produces some kind of olfactory attractant that alerts neighboring males, perhaps arising from organic molecules produced in the female's cloaca. Since female southern stingrays are able to mate soon after parturition, these could be considered to be sexual pheromones. Males occasionally touch females before, and bite them during mating, which may also serve in some communicative capacity.

Like other elasmobranchs, southern stingrays are equipped with highly developed senses of smell. They also possess thousands of Ampullae of Lorenzini on their undersides, particularly concentrated around the head, which allow them to sense electrical field produced by buried prey. Elasmobranchs also have lateral lines for sensing vibrations in the water, and a well-develped sense of hearing. The eyes of southern stingrays are not likely to be useful in sensing prey, being placed on top of the head. However, they are still rather large and well-developed and are likely used to sense predators and other disturbances in the water above.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical ; electric

  • Gardiner, J., R. Hueter, K. Maruska, J. Sisneros, B. Casper, D. Mann, L. Dernski. 2012. Sensory Physiology and Behavior of Elasmobranchs. Pp. 349-401 in J Carrier, J Musick, M Heithaus, eds. Biology of Sharks and Their Relatives, Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
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Life Cycle

Fully-developed young are born soon after hatching from their egg capsules, which occurs inside the mother's body. Hatchlings resemble minature versions of their parents.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

  • Pikitch, E., D. Chapman, E. Babcock, M. Shivji. 2005. Habitat use and demographic population structure of elasmobranchs at a Caribbean atoll (Glover’s Reef, Belize). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 302: 187-197.
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Exhibit ovoviparity (aplacental viviparity), with embryos feeding initially on yolk, then receiving additional nourishment from the mother by indirect absorption of uterine fluid enriched with mucus, fat or protein through specialised structures (Ref. 50449). Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205). Male mounts on female dorsally (Ref. 12951).
  • Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen 1966 Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p. (Ref. 205)
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Life Expectancy

Very little is known about the average lifespan of this species. In a single study, the oldest age recorded for males was 12 years. The oldest recorded female was estimated to be 13 years old.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 to 13 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 18 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Very little is known about the mating systems of southern stingrays. However, one study was able to report observations based on a single female southern stingray mating with two males. The female was followed by the two males, with one male eventually biting and holding onto her pectoral fin. This male then positioned himself so that his pelvic region was curled toward the female’s urogenital opening (also known as the cloaca). The male then flipped upside down and thrust his pelvic region in a rapid sequence for 10 to 33 seconds. Following this, the male released his bite from the female’s pectoral disc. Females are able to mate again soon after giving birth

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Age at sexual maturity varies with the geographical region. In captivity, females were impregnated, and thus considered mature, at about 5 to 6 years. Males, on the other hand, were considered mature at about 3 to 4 years. Maternal size is positively correlated with the number of offspring, which can range from 2 to 10. Stingrays that are raised in captivity bear young biannually, while in wild stingrays, it is usually once a year. Breeding behavior has been observed in early September in the Grand Cayman Islands, and in late August at Bimini, Bahamas. Gestation period ranges from 125 to 226 days with a mean of 175 days.

Southern stingrays use both primary and secondary nurseries for the development of young. The primary nursery is a habitat where a female gives birth to her offspring, while the secondary nursery is habitat where juveniles reach maturity. Little is known about the specific locations of these nurseries and migration of the offspring between the two habitats. In Belize, Glovers Reef is a known primary nursery where adult southern stingrays only visit seasonally for mating or to give birth. Scientists caught juvenile southern stingrays during the months of May, November, and December at a depth of 10 to 20 m on nearby rocky reef surfaces, which is believed to be a secondary nursery.

Breeding interval: Breeding occurs annually in the wild, biannually in captivity.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in summer to early fall, varying depending on geography.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 10.

Average number of offspring: 4.2.

Range gestation period: 125 to 226 days.

Average gestation period: 175 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 to 6 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; induced ovulation ; fertilization (Internal ); ovoviviparous

Southern stingrays are ovoviviparous (producing young by means of eggs that are hatched inside the body of the female), meaning that unborn young are protected by the mother due to developing inside her body. During early development, the embryo uses a yolk sac for its nutrition. After the yolk sac is absorbed, nutrients are provided by the mother through the secretion of histotroph ("uterine milk"). No further parental investment occurs after the young stingrays are born.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Chapman, D., M. Corcoran, G. Harvey, S. Malan, M. Shivji. 2003. Mating behavior of southern stingrays, Dasyatis americana (Dasyatidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 68: 241–245.
  • Henningsen, A. 2000. Notes on Reproduction in the Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a Captive Environment. Copeia, 2000(3): 826-828.
  • Henningsen, A., R. Leaf. 2010. Observations on the Captive Biology of the Southern Stingray. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 139: 783–791.
  • Passarelli, N., A. Piercy. 2006. "Southern Stingray" (On-line). Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 29, 2012 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/SouthernStingray/SouthernStingray.html.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dasyatis americana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 19
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Genomic DNA is available from 7 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo and Ocean Genome Legacy
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Because southern stingrays are large elasmobranchs with relatively low reproductive rates and slow growth, they are at risk of overfishing. Currently, this species has no special conservation status. Populations near the United States appear to be healthy, but there is little information on the populations in other areas where fishing pressure is heavier.

Growing tourism also appears to be affecting southern stingray populations. This is illustrated by the case of “Stingray City Bar”. This species is normally active at night and is a solitary forager, but at this site it is found during the day (when tourist activity is high) and in close proximity with conspecifics year-round. The continuous supply of food keeps the stingrays in this area and causes alterations to their behavior. Another issue is the hand feeding of these wild animals with foods such as squid, which are not found in their natural diet. Long term feeding with these abnormal foods can negatively impact southern stingrays by affecting their health and mobility.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2006

Assessor/s
Grubbs, R.D., Snelson, F., Piercy, A., Rosa, R.S. & Furtado, M.

Reviewer/s
Kyne, P.M. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Dasyatis Americana is a coastal marine and estuarine species with a wide distribution in the Western Atlantic south from New Jersey (USA), through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, south to southeastern Brazil. It is associated with sand flats, seagrass beds and coral reefs at 0 to 53 m depth and is common to locally abundant in some regions. The species is taken as bycatch in various fisheries throughout its range and is harvested in some parts of South America. In some areas it is also an important ecotourism resource. The population appears healthy in the USA and, with no threats apparent, is assessed as Least Concern in that country. However, there is little information available on population trends and the impacts of fishing throughout the rest of its range and it is thus assessed as Data Deficient globally. Increasing artisanal fishing pressure in some regions of Brazil (which may mirror increases in other parts of South America) is of concern and catch monitoring in countries such as Brazil and Venezuela are a priority. Impacts on its inshore environment (including coral reefs) may also represent a threat.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
The species is taken occasionally in the VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) longline survey off the USA, near the northern edge of its range, but no population trends are evident from 1996 to 2003 (J. Musick et al. unpublished data).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Caught as incidental bycatch with trammel nets, bottom trawls, and bottom longlines along the east coast of the USA. Most are released and mortality is probably low. Southern stingrays are harvested in parts of South America and fisheries exist in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. Increased artisanal fishing pressure in some regions of Brazil may warrant concern, including in the states of Ceará and Bahia (Buckup 2000, Gadig et al. 2000). In recent years, tours allowing tourists to swim with this species in shallow water have increased in popularity throughout the Caribbean. The impacts these operations may have (behavioral, ecological, etc.) are largely unknown. Indirect threats from impacts on reef areas.
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Data deficient (DD)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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Fishing activities pose a potential threat to the southern stingray, either when caught accidentally along the east coast of the USA, or when deliberately targeted in parts of South America (1), where its flesh which is sold salted (4). The southern stingray is of considerable importance to ecotourism (4), and at well-known dive sites in the Cayman Islands, (Stingray City and the Sandbar), large numbers of southern stingrays aggregate as a result of feeding by dive operators. There are concerns that this feeding, and the high levels of interaction with humans, may be having some negative impacts on the behaviour and ecology of the stingrays (8).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
None. The impact of increased harvests on populations in Brazil and Venezuela should be monitored and population studies undertaken. Protection of breeding and nursery areas in parts of South America may be necessary for the long-term survival of the species. The species has been considered Vulnerable in Rio de Janeiro Municipality, Brazil (Buckup et al. 2000).

The development and implementation of management plans (national and/or regional e.g., under the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: IPOA?Sharks) are required to facilitate the conservation and sustainable management of all chondrichthyan species in the region. See Anon. (2004) for an update of progress made by nations in the range of D. Americana.
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Conservation

The World Conservation Union (IUCN), considered the southern stingray to be Data Deficient due to the lack of information regarding the impacts of fishing on this species. It is therefore important that harvesting of this species in South America is monitored, and that population surveys and monitoring are undertaken (1). The Guy Harvey Research Institute is undertaking a research project on the Cayman Island stingrays. Research on behaviour, reproduction, genetics and population characteristics is being undertaken, the results of which will help inform management and conservation plans for this charismatic species (8).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Southern stingrays are not known to be aggressive towards humans. Since the they are often found buried in the sand in shallow waters, it is easy to step on them. When stepped on, they will use their venomous spine in self-defense.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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In developing countries, southern stingrays are an important food resource. Southern stingrays are also a large tourist attraction in coastal and island locations throughout their range. A popular tourist site for stingray interaction, “Stingray City Sandbar”, is located in the Cayman Islands. About 150 southern stingrays are found there yearly. The stingrays at this location are found during the day and in a very crowded space, where tourists can hand feed them. The venoms found in association with the spines of stingrays are currently being researched for possible applications in biomedical and neurobiological applications.

Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; source of medicine or drug ; research and education

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Importance

fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
  • International Game Fish Association 1991 World record game fishes. International Game Fish Association, Florida, USA. (Ref. 4699)
  • Stehmann, M., J.D. McEachran and R. Vergara R. 1978 Dasyatidae. In W. Fischer (ed.) FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes. Western Central Atlantic (Fishing Area 31). Vol. 1. [pag. var.]. FAO, Rome. (Ref. 3168)
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Wikipedia

Southern stingray

The southern stingray, Dasyatis americana, is a stingray of the family Dasyatidae (the Whiptail Stingrays) found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to southern Brazil.[2]

It has a flat, diamond-shaped disc, with a mud brown, olive, and grey dorsal surface and white underbelly (ventral surface).[3] The barb on its tail is serrated and covered in a venomous mucous, used for self-defense.

Description[edit]

Southern stingray lying on the sea bed
Dasyatis americana .jpg

The southern stingray is adapted for life on the sea bed. The flattened, diamond-shaped body has sharp corners, making it more angular than the discs of other rays.[4] The top of the body varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, whilst the underside is predominantly white.[4][5] The wing-like pectoral fins are used to propel the stingray across the ocean bottom, whilst the slender tail possesses a long, serrated and poisonous spine at the base, used for defence.[6] These spines are not fatal to humans, but are incredibly painful if stepped on. The eyes are situated on top of the head of the southern stingray, along with small openings called spiracles. The location of the spiracles enables the stingray to take in water whilst lying on the seabed, or when partially buried in sediment. Water enters the spiracles and leaves through the gill openings, bypassing the mouth which is on the underside.[4][6] Female stingrays can grow to a disc width of 150 cm, contrary to the smaller male stingrays that reach maximum size at 67 cm.[7][8]

Behavior[edit]

Southern stingrays are nocturnal predators, who spray water from their mouths or flap their fins vigorously to disturb the substrate and expose hidden prey. This bottom-dwelling species is often found singly or in pairs, and can reach population densities estimated up to 245 per km2 in certain shallow systems thought to be nursery grounds. [9] Dasyatis americana exhibit wave-like locomotion using their pectoral fins. This wave-like motion is important for Dasyatis americana because it allows them to escape predators, forage efficiently, and generally maneuver quickly. Typically, they travel large distances and their foraging area is very expansive. One study provided observations that Dasyatis americana swim along the tide, because of the greater food availability along tides. Dasyatis americana are able to do this because of their high maneuverability and efficient wave-like locomotion. Dasyatis americana either remain solitary or form groups. Groups of Dasyatis americana are usually observed when they mate, for predator protection or even when they are just resting.[10][11][12][13][14]

Foraging[edit]

In one study, it was evident that when scientists revealed the contents of the stomach of one Dasyatis americana, they found evidence of a great variety of ingested prey (which represented a variety of phyla and families), such as small fishes, worms and crustaceans. As mentioned earlier in this article, the Dasyatis americana swim with a wave-like motion, thus making it easier for them to maneuver and help explain why they their foraging area is so vast. They can be identified as opportunistic feeders and continuous foragers, since they exhibit continuous feeding of multiple organisms throughout the day (this helps to explain the stomach contents revealed in the previously mentioned study).[15]

Predation[edit]

To avoid predators, Dasyatis americana bury and cover themselves in substrate. In addition, they also bury themselves in the substrate to effectively hide from their prey. Their tails contain venom and are also utilized as protection from predators. Some predators of Dasyatis americana are humans and Sphyrna mokarra sharks.[16][17]

Roles within their Ecosystems[edit]

In shallow waters, there is a commensal foraging relationship between Dasyatis americana fish and Phalacrocorax auritus birds in coastal areas generally like the Gulf of Mexico. When foraging, the Dasyatis americana dig through the substrate in search of food; however, this also helps to exposes certain other fish hidden in the substrate after which the Phalacrocorax auritus will follow behind the Dasyatis americana and eat.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Reproduction[edit]

Dasyatis americana are ovoviviparous. Mother’s bodies protect unborn offspring, while they are developing inside their mother’s body. The embryos receive nutrients from the yolk sack early in development. Later in development, however, when the yolk sac is absorbed, the embryos obtain nutrients from the histotroph (the mother’s uterine milk). After the Dasyatis americana offspring are born, and are outside of the mother’s body, parental care ceases. In captivity, gestation lasted 135 to 226 days, after which a litter of two to ten young were born.[24]

There is little knowledge or published evidence about the mating systems of Dasyatis americana. Mating stingrays are rarely encountered in the wild. One study, however, does provide detailed observations of Dasyatis americana mating. This study involves observations of one female mating with two males. The study mentions that the female was chased by the two males, with one of the male’s biting (or “catching”) the female’s fin. After copulation, the male releases the female from his bite on her. In addition, soon after giving birth, Dasyatis americana females have the ability to mate again.[25]

Sexual Maturity and Nursery Type[edit]

Geographical location plays a large role in the age of sexual maturity. Observations from studies of breeding behavior (of Dasyatis americana during August at Bimini, Bahamas, and early September in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands). One study shows that when females were placed in captivity, they were considered mature when they were impregnated (around 5 or 6 years old). In this case, males who were 3 or 4 years old were considered to be mature. There is also a difference in the rate at which the females bear young, depending on whether they are raised in captive natural environments or in natural environments. Females raised in captivity bear offspring twice a year, and females that are raised in the wild bear offspring once a year. In addition, there is a positive correlation between the size of the mother and the number of offspring.[25] There is a difference in nurseries for where the Dasyatis americana offspring are raised: there are primary and secondary nurseries which have a clear distinction. The primary nursery is defined as a habitat where a female Dasyatis americana gives birth to her young. On the other hand, the secondary nursery is a habitat where the juvenile Dasyatis americana are raised to mature adults. Little evidence about locations of and migrations between the primary and secondary nurseries is known. An example of a primary nursery is in Belize, where Dasyatis americana females pay seasonal visits for the purposes of mating and giving birth to offspring. During one study, juvenile Dasyatis americana were caught by scientists at 10 to 20 m depths on rock reef surfaces nearby during the months of May, November and December. This specific location of where these juvenile Dasyatis americana were collected was believed to be a secondary nursery. [26][27]

Communication[edit]

Studies of Dasyatis americana have shown that they communicate through pheromone signaling. Males communicate with females before copulating by touching and biting the females. Also, after the female gives birth, she releases pheromones that are most likely believed to be produced in her cloaca; one study reported that the birth of offspring attracted males. As previously mentioned in the article, since a female has the ability to mate soon after giving birth to her offspring, it is plausible that these are sex pheromones. The role of pheromones in communication also make sense since Dasyatis americana have strong senses of smell. They have many Ampullae of Lorenzini, usually heavily concentrated around the head. In addition, this gives them the ability to sense certain electric fields which are emitted from hidden prey. In addition, they have special mechanisms for senses vibrations in the water as well as for hearing.[28][25]

Human Interaction[edit]

In many parts of the Caribbean such as Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and Antigua, the southern stingray swims with divers and snorkelers, and are hand fed on a locations such as Stingray City and the Sandbar.[29] On Turks & Caicos, they can be hand fed at a location called Gibbs Cay. Some have become tame enough to be cradled in visitors' arms and feed with pieces of cut up fish. This docile and food-reward driven behaviour has led to many locals comparing the hand-fed and belly-rubbed stingray to an over fed household canine. There are concerns that this feeding, and the high levels of interaction with humans, may be having some negative impacts on the behaviour and ecology of the stingrays.[30]

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Southern stingray" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GFDL.

  1. ^ Grubbs, D.R., F. Snelson, A. Piercy, R.S. Rosa and M. Furtado (2006). Dasyatis americana. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
  2. ^ http://www.fishbase.org/summary/1247
  3. ^ BIGELOW, H. & SCHROEDER, W. (1953) Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Sawfishes, guitarfishes, skates and rays. Mem. Sears Found. Mar. Res.,. Mem. Sears Found. Mar. Res.,, 1, 1-558.
  4. ^ a b c Southern Stingray. Southern stingray Biological Profile, Ichthyology Department, Florida Museum of Natural History (August, 2007) - via ARKive
  5. ^ Lieske, E. and Myers, R. (2002) Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. HarperCollins Publishers, London – via ARKive
  6. ^ a b Carpenter, K.E. (2001) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic, Volume 1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome – via ARKive
  7. ^ HENNINGSEN, A. (2000) Notes on reproduction in the southern stingray, Dasyatis americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a captive environment. Copeia, 2000, 826-828.
  8. ^ MCEACHRAN, J. & DE CARVALHO, M. (2002) Dasyatidae. In: K.E. Carpenter (ed.). The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 1. Introduction, molluscs, crustaceans, hagfishes, sharks, batoid fishes and chimaeras. . 562–571.
  9. ^ Tilley, A. & Strindberg, S. (2012) Population density estimation of southern stingrays Dasyatis americana on a Caribbean atoll using distance sampling. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.
  10. ^ Semeniuk, C., B. Speers-Roesch, K. Rothley. 2007. Using Fatty-Acid Profile Analysis as an Ecologic Indicator in the Management of Tourist Impacts on Marine Wildlife: A Case of Stingray-Feeding in the Caribbean. Environmental Management, 40: 665–677.
  11. ^ Cartamil, D., J. Vaudo, C. Lowe, B. Wetherbee, K. Holland. 2003. Diel movement patterns of the Hawaiian stingray, Dasyatis lata: implications for ecological interactions between sympatric elasmobranch species. Marine Biology, 142: 841–847.
  12. ^ Rosenberger, L. 2001. Pectoral fin locomotion in batoid fishes: undulation versus oscillation. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 204: 379-394.
  13. ^ Semeniuk, C., K. Rothley. 2008. Costs of group-living for a normally solitary forager: effects of provisioning tourism on southern stingrays Dasyatis americana. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 357: 271–282.
  14. ^ Semeniuk, C., W. Haider, A. Cooper, K. Rothley. 2010. A linked model of animal ecology and human behavior for the management of wildlife tourism. Ecological Modelling, 221: 2699–2713.
  15. ^ Gilliam, D., K. Sullivan. 1993. Diet and feeding habits of the Southern stingray. Bulletin of Marine Science, 52(3): 1007-1013.
  16. ^ Passarelli, N., A. Piercy. 2006. "Southern Stingray" (On-line). Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 29, 2012
  17. ^ Pikitch, E., D. Chapman, E. Babcock, M. Shivji. 2005. Habitat use and demographic population structure of elasmobranchs at a Caribbean atoll (Glover’s Reef, Belize). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 302: 187-197.
  18. ^ Snelson, F., S. Gruber, F. Murru, T. Schmid. 1990. Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana: Host for a Symbiotic Cleaner Wrasse. Copeia, 1990 (4): 961-965.
  19. ^ Sazima, C., J. Krajewski, R. Bonaldo, I. Sazima. 2007. Nuclear-follower foraging associations of reef fishes and other animals at an oceanic archipelago. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 80: 351-361.
  20. ^ Saunders, D. 1958. The occurrence of Haemogregarina bigemina Laveran and Mesnil, and H. dasyatis n. sp. in marine fish from Bimini, Bahamas. Transactions of the American Microscopal Society, 77: 404-412.
  21. ^ Kohn, A., S. Cohen, G. Salgado-Maldonado. 2006. Checklist of Monogenea parasites of freshwater and marine fishes, amphibians and reptiles from Mexico, Central America and Caribbean. Zootaxa, 1289: 1-114.
  22. ^ Kajiura, S., L. Macesic, T. Meredith, K. Cocks, L. Dirk. 2009. Commensal Foraging Between Double-crested Cormorants and a Southern Stingray. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 121(3): 646–648.
  23. ^ Brooks, D., M. Mayes. 1980. Cestodes in four species of euryhaline stingrays from Colombia. Proceedings of the Helminthological Society of Washington, 47: 22-29.
  24. ^ Henningsen, A.D. (2000) Notes on reproduction in the southern stingray, Dasyatis americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a captive environment. Copeia, 2000: 826 - 828.
  25. ^ a b c Chapman, D., M. Corcoran, G. Harvey, S. Malan, M. Shivji. 2003. Mating behavior of southern stingrays, Dasyatis americana (Dasyatidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 68: 241–245.
  26. ^ Henningsen, A. 2000. Notes on Reproduction in the Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana (Chondrichthyes: Dasyatidae), in a Captive Environment. Copeia, 2000(3): 826-828.
  27. ^ Henningsen, A., R. Leaf. 2010. Observations on the Captive Biology of the Southern Stingray. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 139: 783–791.
  28. ^ Gardiner, J., R. Hueter, K. Maruska, J. Sisneros, B. Casper, D. Mann, L. Dernski. 2012. Sensory Physiology and Behavior of Elasmobranchs. Pp. 349-401 in J Carrier, J Musick, M Heithaus, eds. Biology of Sharks and Their Relatives, Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  29. ^ SEMENIUK, C. & ROTHLEY, K. (2008) Costs of group-living for a normally solitary forager: effects of provisioning tourism on southern stingrays Dasyatis americana. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 357, 271-282.
  30. ^ Guy Harvey Research Institute (August, 2007) - via ARKive
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Rosenberger (2001) used morphological characters to examine phylogenetic relationships within DASYATIS stingrays and concluded that DASYATIS and HIMANTURA are not monophyletic genera. Taxonomic changes likely will ensue after completion of further studies of additional species within the group.

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