Overview

Comprehensive Description

Rhinoptera bonasus is one of fifteen species of elasmobranch fishes recorded in the Indian River Lagoon (Snelson and Williams 1982). The dorsal side is brown to olive lacking spots or other markings. The ventral side of the cownose ray is white or yellowish-white with brown edges. The pectoral fins, sometimes referred to as wings, are long and pointed. The square shaped projecting snout has an indentation in the center giving the impression that it is bi-lobed. Two small fins (rostra) project from the head. The mouth is small and located on the ventral side of the ray. The tail is whip-like with a spine at the base just posterior to a small dorsal fin. A defensive venomous barb is located at the base of the spine. Species of cownose ray are sometimes only distinguishable by the morphology and number of teeth.
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Biology

An oceanic species sometimes found near the coast (Ref. 5217). Forms segregated schools (Ref. 12951). Jumps occasionally, landing with a loud smack, probably as a territorial display. Migrates south in large schools that disappear off northern Florida, USA and are not reported from Caribbean Is.; tagged fish have been recovered in northern South America (Ref. 7251). Population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates clockwise; schools of up to 10,000 rays leave west coast of Florida for Yucatan, Mexico in the fall (Ref. 7251). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 50449).
  • 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

Western Atlantic: southern New England to northern Florida (USA) and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, migrating to Trinidad, Venezuela, and Brazil
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Range Description

This species is found along continental shelves in warm temperate and tropical waters of the western Atlantic, from southern New England, USA to southern Brazil, including coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean (whilst recorded from Cuba, apparently not confirmed from Jamaica, Hispaniola or the Lesser Antilles). It is known to frequent bays and estuaries of these areas, and has been reported as especially abundant in the Chesapeake Bay during summer months (Schwartz 1965, Smith and Merriner 1987). The exact southern limit of range in Brazil is uncertain due to confusion with the very similar R. brasiliensis.
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Eastern Atlantic: Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea. Western Atlantic: southern New England to northern Florida (USA) and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, migrating to Trinidad, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay (Ref. 7251).
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The cownose rays occur worldwide in tropical and temperature oceans, bays, estuaries, and river mouths (Neer and Thompson 2005). There are five pelagic species in the genus Rhinoptera. R. bonasus is found in the western Atlantic from New England (southern Massachusetts) to Florida and further to southern Brazil (Blaylock 1993, Neer and Thompson 2005). R. bonasus also occurs in the Gulf of Mexico migrating to Trinidad, Venezuela and is suggested to be a separate population from Atlantic residents (Collins et al. 2007b). Cownose rays are usually seen on continental and insular shelves and to depths of 22 m. Rhinoptera bonasus was first reported in the Indian River Lagoon in 1981 by Snelson and Williams (1981). The cownose ray does not appear to be a year-round resident moving through the lagoon during August and November most likely during migratory travels.
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Western Atlantic: New England to southern Brazil.
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Western Atlantic coast from mid-Brazil to southern New England.
  • Bigelow, H. B. and Schroeder, W. C.,1953; Robins, C. R. and G. C. Ray, 1986; Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A. J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J. M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez, 1992; Michael, S. W., 1993.
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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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Physical Description

Size

Maximum size: 2130 mm WD
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Max. size

213 cm WD (male/unsexed; (Ref. 4441))
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The cownose ray can have a wingspan of up to 213 cm. This species displays considerable variation in size among populations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, including the size at which male and female individuals reach sexual maturity and longevity. Both males and females reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5 years of age. In the Gulf of Mexico, females may live as long as 18 years while males live to 16 years, whereas the oldest rays recorded in the western Atlantic Ocean were 13 years for females and 8 years for males (Neer and Thompson 2005).
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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to 91 cm. across disc.
  • Bigelow, H. B. and Schroeder, W. C.,1953; Robins, C. R. and G. C. Ray, 1986; Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A. J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J. M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez, 1992; Michael, S. W., 1993.
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Diagnostic Description

Deep grove around front of head below eyes; forehead above groove indented, snout below groove is distinctly bilobed (Ref. 26938). Disk brown to olive above, with no spots or marks, wings long and pointed (Ref. 7251). Lower surface white or yellowish white (Ref. 6902).
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Look Alikes

Rhinoptera javanica (non M?ller and Henle 1841) is similar in appearance to Rhinoptera bonasus.
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Ecology

Habitat

nektonic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
These rays occur in marine and brackish waters, often swimming into estuaries and bays. They have been reported in river portions of estuaries, at salinities as low as eight parts per thousand (Smith and Merriner 1987, A. Barker unpublished data). They are assumed to make mass schooling migrations, triggered at least in part by water temperature (Smith and Merriner 1985).

They are pelagic swimmers, benthic feeders, and are found at depths between 0 to 22 m (Fishbase.org). Reproduction is aplacental viviparous, with mature females giving birth usually to only one pup (although up to six embryos have been reported) (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Smith and Merriner 1986, Neer and Thompson 2005). There is confusion as to whether there are one or two annual reproductive events (Smith and Merriner 1986), although Neer and Thompson (2005) support a single annual reproductive event.

Primary prey includes benthic invertebrates, especially bivalve molluscs (Smith and Merriner 1985). Feeding activities by schooling rays have been implicated in extensive damage to seagrass (Orth 1975) and commercial shellfish beds (Smith and Merriner 1985, Peterson 2001).

Life history parameters
Age at maturity: 7 to 8 years (Chesapeake Bay; Smith and Merriner 1987), 4 to 5 years (N. Gulf of Mexico; Neer and Thompson 2005) (female); 5 to 6 years (Chesapeake Bay; Smith and Merriner 1987), 4 to 5 years (N. Gulf of Mexico; Neer and Thompson 2005) (male).
Size at maturity (disc width): 85 to 90 cm DW (Chesapeake Bay; Smith and Merriner 1986), 65 to 70 cm DW (Gulf of Mexico; A. Barker unpublished data, Neer and Thompson 2005) (female); 75 to 85 cm DW (Chesapeake Bay; Smith and Merriner 1986), 64 to 70 cm DW (Gulf of Mexico, A. Barker unpublished data, Neer and Thompson 2005) (male).
Longevity: ~13 years (Chesapeake Bay; Smith and Merriner 1987); 18+ years (females), 16+ years (males) (N. Gulf of Mexico; Neer and Thompson 2005).
Maximum size (disc width): 107 cm DW (Smith and Merriner 1987).
Size at birth: 25 to 40 cm DW (Smith and Merriner 1986, A. Barker unpublished data, Neer and Thompson 2005).
Average reproductive age (years): Unknown.
Gestation time: There is still speculation regarding gestation time, but it is 11 to 12 months if there is a single annual reproductive event, or 5 to 6 months if there are two (Chesapeake Bay, Smith and Merriner 1986). 11 to 12 months (N. Gulf of Mexico; Neer and Thompson 2005) (supporting a single annual reproductive event).
Reproductive periodicity: Females ovulate immediately after parturition, so periodicity is annual or biannual, depending on the resolution of the above issue..
Average annual fecundity or litter size: Typically gravid females have only 1 embryo, but there have been reports of up to 6 embryos within one female.
Annual rate of population increase: Unknown.
Natural mortality: Unknown.

Systems
  • Marine
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Habitat Type: Marine

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Environment

benthopelagic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); brackish; marine; depth range 0 - 22 m (Ref. 26912)
  • Riede, K. 2004 Global register of migratory species - from global to regional scales. Final Report of the R&D-Projekt 808 05 081. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn, Germany. 329 p. (Ref. 51243)
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Depth range based on 304 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 116 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 73
  Temperature range (°C): 11.619 - 25.874
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.286 - 3.391
  Salinity (PPS): 32.419 - 36.377
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.263 - 6.300
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 0.446
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 2.493

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 73

Temperature range (°C): 11.619 - 25.874

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.286 - 3.391

Salinity (PPS): 32.419 - 36.377

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.263 - 6.300

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 0.446

Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 2.493
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth: 0 - 22m.
Recorded at 22 meters.

Habitat: benthopelagic.
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Benthopelagic; brackish; marine. depth range 0-22 m. An oceanic species sometimes found near the coast. Forms segregated schools. Jumps occasionally, probably as a territorial display.
  • Bigelow, H. B. and Schroeder, W. C.,1953; Robins, C. R. and G. C. Ray, 1986; Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A. J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J. M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez, 1992; Michael, S. W., 1993.
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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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Oceanodromous. Migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
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Trophic Strategy

An oceanic species sometimes found near the coast (Ref. 5217). Forms segregated schools (Ref. 12951). Jumps occasionally, landing with a loud smack, probably as a territorial display. Migrates south in large schools that disappear off northern Florida, USA and are not reported from Caribbean Is.; tagged fish have been recovered in northern South America (Ref. 7251). Population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates clockwise; schools of up to 10,000 rays leave west coast of Florida for Yucatan, Mexico in the fall (Ref. 7251). Foraging schools of rays invade tidal flats during the flood tide. Stirring motions of the pectoral fins combined with suction from the expansive orobranchial chamber are probably used to excavate deep burrowing bivalves (Ref. 59106). Adult rays feed on deep burrowing mollusks and juveniles feed on shallow or non-burrowing bivalves (Ref. 59106). The soft shell, Mya arenaria, contributed the greatest frequency of occurrence (Ref. 59106). Exposed pectoral fin tips and water boils on a calm surface was characterized the shallow-water feeding activity of cownose rays (Ref. 59106).
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The diet of Rhinoptera bonasus consists mainly of small invertebrates, in particularly crustaceans, polychaetes, and bivalve mollusks (Collins et al. 2007a). They locate food in the benthos and use their pectoral fins to stir the sand while sucking water and sediment through the gills to filter out their prey. Shells are crushed between their tooth-plates and the soft tissue is digested.
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Feeds on bottom-living invertebrates and fishes.
  • Bigelow, H. B. and Schroeder, W. C.,1953; Robins, C. R. and G. C. Ray, 1986; Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A. J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J. M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez, 1992; Michael, S. W., 1993.
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Associations

The cobia, Rachycentron canadum has been observed in close association with Rhinoptera bonasus. The cobia maintains a position in close proximity to the back of the rays feeding on rejected food scraps or displaced benthos (Smith and Merriner 1982).
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Population Biology

Rhinoptera bonasus forms large schools from hundreds to thousands of individuals (Blaylock 1993). In the Chesapeake Bay, large schools of cownose rays are abundant in the summer (Blaylock 1993). Migration: This species migrates along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico (Collins et al. 2007a). In the Atlantic, Rhinoptera bonasus migrates southward in the late fall and northward in the late spring. The onset of the migrations may be influenced by changes in water temperature but this does not seem to be the case for observations made at Pine Island Sound estuary in Florida (Collins et al. 2007b). In this population, there does not appear to be a predictable seasonal/temperature related migration. Rather, cownose ray migration may be more influenced by factors such as food availability or predator avoidance in this estuary.
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

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).
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 15.5 years (wild)
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Reproduction

The mode of reproduction in the cownose ray is aplacental viviparity in which the eggs hatch and babies develop inside the body of the female without a placenta to provide nourishment. As a result, the pups will eat any unfertilized eggs and each other. Usually an individual will only give birth to one pup a year measuring approximately 36 cm in width (Neer and Thompson 2005).
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Ovoviviparous.
  • Bigelow, H. B. and Schroeder, W. C.,1953; Robins, C. R. and G. C. Ray, 1986; Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A. J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J. M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez, 1992; Michael, S. W., 1993.
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Growth

Embryos range in size from 205 to 395 mm in populations in the Gulf of Mexico. The mean gestation period reported for both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico females is 11 to 12 months (Neer and Thompson 2005).
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhinoptera bonasus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Genomic DNA is available from 1 specimen with morphological vouchers housed at Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2006

Assessor/s
Barker, A.S.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
A large (to 107 cm disc width) batoid of shallow marine and brackish waters of the western Atlantic distributed from the northern US to Brazil, including through the Gulf of Mexico. The schooling nature and inshore habitat of this species together with their relatively late maturity and low productivity (generally one young per litter) increases their susceptibility to overexploitation and will limit their ability to recover from population decline. This species is assumed to be highly migratory, but movement patterns are not well known and research into this area is required. Although there is currently no directed fishery for the cownose ray in the US, it has been suggested due to their reputation as a "pest" species to the shellfish industry. In US waters they are currently taken as bycatch in fisheries employing pound nets, haul seines and shrimp trawls, however, these activities do not pose a significant threat to the species at the present time and the population appears to be healthy. As such the species is assessed as Least Concern in the USA. However, if a fishery for cownose rays is ever established, it could be devastating to the population without proper monitoring. The species is assessed globally as Near Threatened due to heavy (and generally unregulated) fishing pressure on the inshore environment throughout large parts of Central and South America. Although no information is currently available on its contribution to artisanal fisheries in these regions, as a broadly distributed, migratory species inhabiting shallow coastal waters it is most certainly commonly taken either in directed catches or as bycatch. Rhinopterids are regularly landed around the world and heavy pressure on the inshore ecosystem is having negative impacts on congeners of R. bonasus, for example R. javanica throughout Asia and R. brasiliensis in Brazil. Similar adverse population trends are expected for R. bonasus and there is an urgent need to determine the current population status and catch levels.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Population

Population
There are no existing population size estimates for this species, but they are common in parts of their range at certain times of the year. During suspected seasonal migrations, they often occur in groups of thousands of individuals (Clark 1963, Schwartz 1965, Smith and Merriner 1985, 1986, 1987, Rogers 1990). According to Schwartz (1990), the populations in the Western Atlantic (Southern New England to Brazil) and the Gulf of Mexico (Florida to the Yucatan Peninsula) are separate, but insufficient data exist to support this idea.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There is currently no commercial fishery for this species in the Northwestern Atlantic, but there have been suggestions to establish one (Blankenship 1998) because of the damage that large feeding schools can do to shellfish and seagrass beds.

In the USA, present commercial fisheries for other species can pose a threat to cownose rays, which are caught as bycatch within pound nets, haul seines and shrimp trawls (J. Musick personal communication, G. Burgess personal communication). This species is quite hardy and is likely to survive netting and short amounts of time on the deck of fishing vessels. However, a venomous spine makes handling difficult and their reputation as a nuisance species may encourage persecution.

Although no information is currently available on its presence or contribution to artisanal fisheries throughout the species' Central and South American range, given its inshore habitat and the occurrence of fishing activities in coastal zones throughout its range it is most certainly commonly taken. In many regions of the species' southern range inshore fishing is intense and generally unregulated. For example, in parts of Brazil there is intensive fishing pressure by beach seine and benthic pair trawl fisheries and in southern Brazil these have had detrimental effects on the population of the congener R. brasiliensis which appears to be been extirpated from some areas.

Its inshore habitat, schooling behaviour and low productivity makes R. bonasus highly susceptible to overexploitation. Heavy (generally) fishing pressure on the inshore environment throughout large parts of Central and South America will most certainly be having an effect on R. bonasus, thus resulting in its global Near Threatened assessment.

Specific information on directed and/or bycatch levels are not available from Central and South America and the attainment of such data, as well as investigation into the current population status is of priority.
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Near Threatened (NT)
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Interest in the cownose ray has increased because of its potential impact on commercially important shellfish stocks including the oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in Chesapeake Bay (Blaylock 1993).
  • Bayly IAE. 1972. Salinity tolerance and osmotic behavior of animals in athalassic saline and marine hypersaline waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 3:233-268.
  • Blaylock RA. 1993. Distribution and abundance of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 16:255-263.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, Hueter RE and PJ Motta. 2007a. Hard prey specialists or opportunistic generalists? An examination of the diet of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Marine and Freshwater Research 58:135-144.
  • Collins AB, Heupel MR, and PJ Motta. 2007b. Residence and movement patterns of cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus within a south-west Florida estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 71:1159-1178.
  • FFWCC. Undated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • FMNH. Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department. Cownose Ray information page. Available online.
  • Neer JA and BA Thompson. 2005. Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73:321-331.
  • Smith JW and JV Merriner. 1982. Association of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, with Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. Estuaries 5:240-242.
  • Snelson FF and SE Williams. 1981. Notes on the occurrence, distribution, and biology of elasmobranch fishes in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida. Estuaries 4:110-120.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There is no existing legislation involving this species. Elasmobranch fisheries are generally unmanaged throughout Central and South America. Attempts to monitor and regulate fisheries in these regions would greatly improve conservation of R. bonasus and other chondrichthyans. Monitoring (including species-specific catch details) of any directed elasmobranch landings and bycatch in Central and South America are necessary to provide valuable information on the biology and population status of these rays. Fishery-independent surveys of this and other elasmobranchs are necessary to provide estimates of abundance and biomass. Due to the transient nature of this schooling ray, coordinated national and international efforts are necessary to adequately assess movements, abundance, and fishery impacts.

Further research required includes an extensive tracking study to better estimate population size and movement patterns, and a focus on obtaining improved life history data from across the species? range, and the characterization of habitat use and potential nursery areas. Furthermore, direct estimates of fishing and natural mortality are critical for assessing fisheries impacts on a particular species.

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 R. bonasus.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: minor commercial; aquarium: public aquariums; price category: medium; price reliability: very questionable: based on ex-vessel price for species in this family
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Wikipedia

Cownose ray

For other species of cownose rays, see Rhinoptera.

The cownose ray (Rhinoptera bonasus) is a species of eagle ray found throughout a large part of the western Atlantic and Caribbean, from New England, USA to southern Brazil (East Atlantic populations are now generally considered a separate species, R. marginata). Cownose rays grow rapidly, and male rays often reach about 35 inches (89 cm) in width and weigh 26 pounds (12 kg). Females typically reach 28 inches (71 cm) in width and weigh 36 pounds (16 kg).

Gestation[edit]

The embryo grows within its mother with its wings folded over its body. Initially it is nourished by an egg yolk, although the uterine secretions of the mother nourish it later in its development. The length of gestation is disputed. At full term, the offspring are born live, exiting tail first.

Size and appearance[edit]

Cownose rays swimming in shallows in the Gulf of Mexico

The cownose ray is 11 to 18 inches (28 to 46 cm) in width at birth. A mature specimen can grow to 45 inches (1.1 m) in width, and weigh 50 pounds (23 kg) or more. There is some controversy over the size that a mature cownose ray can reach. A ray reaching a span of 84 inches has been recorded.[citation needed]

A cownose ray is typically brown-backed with a whitish or yellowish belly. Although its coloration is not particularly distinctive, its shape is easily recognizable. It has a broad head with wide-set eyes, and a pair of distinctive lobes on its subrostral fin. It also has a set of dental plates designed for crushing clams and oyster shells. When threatened the cownose ray can use the barb at the base of its tail to defend itself from the threat.

A cownose ray has a stinger, called a spine, on its tail, close to the ray's body. This spine has teeth lining its lateral edges, and is coated with a weak venom that causes symptoms similar to that of a bee sting.

Feeding habits[edit]

The cownose ray feeds upon clams, oysters, hard clams and other invertebrates. It uses two modified fins on its front side to produce suction, which allows it to draw food into its mouth, where it crushes its food with its dental plates. Cownose rays typically swim in groups, which allows them to use their synchronized wing flaps to stir up sediment and expose buried clams and oysters.

Aquariums[edit]

Cownose rays may be seen in selected zoo aquaria and are often featured in special 'touch tanks' where visitors can reach into a wide but shallow pool containing the fish which have had their barbs pinched or taken off, making them safe enough to touch. One of these such tanks is located next to the right-field stands at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.[1]

A touch tank can also be found in the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, Toronto, Ontario.[citation needed] The large shark and ray touch tank at the New England Aquarium in Boston contains a large number of cownose rays, as well as eight other species of rays and six species of sharks, that visitors can touch. The nearby Ocean Explorium in New Bedford, MA, houses these rays in their touch tank along with spotted bamboo sharks and Atlantic stingrays. They are also at the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters on Marathon Key, FL, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, FL, as well.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cownose Sting Ray". Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
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