Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The ocellate river stingray is often found lying still, buried in the sandy sediment at the bottom of a stream, particularly during the warmest part of the day (2) (5). Like all stingrays, the females of this species produce eggs, but these develop inside the female. The young hatch inside the female and are then 'born' live after a gestation period of no more than three months (5) (6). The litter size of the ocellate river stingray varies massively, from 3 to 21 young (2). Sexual maturity is reached at around three years of age, when the stingray measures between 30 and 35 centimetres across (2). Initially after birth, the ocellate river stingray feeds on plankton, but as it grows, the diet expands to also include small molluscs, crustaceans and the larvae of aquatic insects, while larger adults also eat certain catfish (those belonging to the family Loricaridae) (2). The ocellate has relatively few predators, except for some larger fish and caiman (3).
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Description

Remarkable for its habitat, the ocellate river stingray is one of a small group of rays that evolved in freshwater from a marine ancestor (3). The first part of the scientific name reflects this lifestyle, potamos means 'river' in Greek, while the second part, trygon, means 'three angles' (4), and may refer to its body shape. The body of the ocellate river stingray is an oval disc, with a greyish-brown upper surface patterned with distinct yellow-orange spots, and a white underside (2). While the ocellate river stingray is a beautiful species, it is much feared for the single spine borne at the tip of the robust tail, which is capable of delivering a painful sting (2) (5).
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Found in freshwater rivers. It is an extremely dangerous species. Maximum length reported in Axelrod et al., 1991 (Ref. 6398) is 100 cm TL.
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Distribution

Ocellate river stingrays are endemic to, and widespread throughout, several South American river systems. Most studies on this species have been conducted in the Brazilian Amazon region, and while its presence has been confirmed in the rivers of other South American nations, such as Uruguay, the details of its distribution outside of the Brazilian Amazon are not fully understood. In addition to the Amazon River basin, this species is found in the Uruguay, Paraná-Paraguay, and Orinoco River basins, including the middle and lower portions of Rio Paraná in midwestern Brazil (where it is the most abundant species of stingray), middle portions of the Río Uruguay, and in the Río de la Plata, Río Pilcomayo, Río Bermejo, Río Guapore, Río Negro, Río Branco, Río de Janeiro and Río Paraguay. This species has recently gained access to many upper regions of the Amazon river basin and other non-native areas due to hydroelectric dams eliminating natural barriers.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Introduced , Native )

  • Drioli, M., G. Chiaramonte. 2005. "Potamotrygon motoro" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 15, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/summary/39404/0.
  • Júlio Jr, H., C. Tós, Â. Agostinho, C. Pavanelli. 2009. A massive invasion of fish species after eliminating a natural barrier in the upper rio Paraná basin.. Neotropical Ichthyology, 7.4: 709-718. Accessed November 14, 2012 at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/ni/v7n4/a21v7n4.pdf.
  • Oddone, M., G. Velasco, P. Charvet. 2012. Record of the freshwater stingrays Potamotrygon brachyura and P. motoro (Chondrichthyes, Potamotrygonidae) in the lower Uruguay river, South America. Acta Amazonica, 42/2: 299-304. Accessed October 15, 2012 at http://ref.scielo.org/sb3dhc.
  • Silva, T., V. Uieda. 2007. Preliminary data on the feeding habits of the freshwater stingrays Potamotrygon falkneri and Potamotrygon motoro (Potamotrygonidae) from the Upper Paraná River basin, Brazil. Biota Neotropica, 7/1: 0-0. Accessed October 15, 2012 at http://ref.scielo.org/dtwqn4.
  • Torres, A., A. Sampang. 2012. "Potamotrygon motoro (Müller & Henle, 1841): South American freshwater stingray" (On-line). Fishbase. Accessed February 22, 2013 at http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Potamotrygon-motoro.html.
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Range Description

Rio Paraná, middle and lower reaches; Río Uruguay middle, Río de la Plata, Río Pilcomayo and Río Bermejo. Río Guapore, Río Negro, Río Branco, Río de Janeiro and Río Paraguay.
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South America: Uruguay, Paraná-Paraguay, Orinoco, and Amazon River basins.
  • de Carvalho, M.R., N. Lovejoy and R.S. Rosa 2003 Potamotrygonidae (River stingrays). p. 22-28. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil. (Ref. 36687)
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Widespread in South America.
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Range

The ocellate river stingray has a widespread distribution, extending across Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, where is occurs in the Paraná-Paraguay, Orinoco, and Amazon River basins (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

These stingrays can be distinguished from closely related species (such as large spot stingrays (Potamotrygon falkneri)) by the presence of orange to yellow dorsal eyespots, each surrounded by a black ring, with diameters larger than the eyes. Body color is otherwise greyish-brown. They are oval in shape with a robust tail, bearing a venemous spine. Maximum total length has been reported at 100 centimeters and maximum weight at 15 kg, though individuals tend to be much smaller (50-60 cm and under 10 kg). Females tend to be slightly larger than males.

Range mass: 15 (high) kg.

Range length: 100 (high) cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Size

Maximum size: 1000 mm TL
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Max. size

50.0 cm WD (male/unsexed; (Ref. 36687)); max. published weight: 15.0 kg (Ref. 27548)
  • de Carvalho, M.R., N. Lovejoy and R.S. Rosa 2003 Potamotrygonidae (River stingrays). p. 22-28. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil. (Ref. 36687)
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Type Information

Paratype for Potamotrygon motoro
Catalog Number: USNM 153588
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Preparation: Radiograph
Locality: Brazil: Obidos, Para, Brazil, South America
  • Paratype:
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Ecology

Habitat

Ocellate river stingrays are habitat generalists of tropical (24°C-26 C) freshwater rivers. As a bethopelagic animal, habitat depth varies with the depths of the rivers they inhabit; studies have found these stingrays at depths of 0.5-2.5 meters in the upper Paraná River, but at depths of 7-10 meters in the Uruguay River. Ocellate river stingrays prefer calm waters with sandy substrate, particularly the edges of brooks, streams and lagoons, where they are often found partially buried.

Range depth: 0.5 to 10 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; benthic ; rivers and streams

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Like all river rays, the ocellate river ray is found in calm waters, especially on the sandy margins of lagoons, brooks and streams. They are most commonly caught when water levels are low (August-September and March-April in Río Paraná, Santa Fe region (Castex and Maciel 1965b)), and observed still and partly buried during the warmest period of the day (09.00-20.00). Fishermen also harpoon these rays during floods when they are found resting over vegetation in shallow water. Potamotrygon motoro catches coincide with a rise in water temperature (Castex and Maciel 1965a), with abundance increasing in the Paraná Medio from September to mid January, stabilising in early March, declining in April then disappearing (Martinez Achenbach and Martinez Achenbach 1976). It is possible that they remain permanently in the area, but are concealed on the bottom at other times. Martinez Achenbach and Martinez Achenbach (1976) consider that Potamotrygon species are ovoviviparous. Potamotrygon motoro reaches sexual maturity during its third year, at a disk width of 30-35cm. A specimen with a disk of 30 cm expelled nine foetuses immediately after being captured. Another, with a disk of 45 cm, gave birth to a litter of 15 young, eight females and seven males. The largest foetus was 13.5 cm in diameter and the smallest 9.5 cm. The diameter of the females was between 11-13.5 cm, whereas the diameter of the males ranged between 9.5-12cm. Female P. motoro were in an advanced stage of pregnancy in January (Castex 1963). Smaller females give birth to fewer young. The litter size is always odd, varying from 3-21 (Martinez Achenbach and Martinez Achenbach 1976).

According to Martinez Achenbach and Martinez Achenbach, plankton is the first food taken after birth. Juveniles complement their diet with small molluscs (Lamellibranchs and Gastropods), crustaceans and the larvae of aquatic insects. Fish of the family Loricaridae, Astyanax sp. and Pimelodella gracilis were found in the stomach contents of adults.

Systems
  • Freshwater
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Environment

benthopelagic; potamodromous (Ref. 51243); freshwater; pH range: 5.0 - 6.0; dH range: 10
  • 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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While most rays are marine, the ocellate river stingray is one of the few species that is restricted entirely to freshwater (1) (5). Like the other river rays, this species favours calm waters, especially the sandy edges of lagoons, brooks and streams (2).
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Migration

Potamodromous. Migrating within streams, migratory in rivers, e.g. Saliminus, Moxostoma, Labeo. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
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Trophic Strategy

Food types consumed depend on age and environment. Shortly after birth, young eat plankton and juveniles add small mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic insect larvae to their diets. Adults are primarily consumers of fish, including loricariids, Astyanax species, and graceful pimelodellas (Pimelodella gracilis), as well as crustaceans (Palaemonidae sp.). They are also known to eat gastropods (Ampullariidae and Hydrobiidae sp.), aquatic insects (Baetidae, Chironomidae, Elmidae, and Naucoridae sp.), and flying insects (Pyralidae, Corduliidae, Gomphidae, Hydropsychidae, Leptoceridae, and Odontoceridae sp.).

Animal Foods: fish; insects; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton

Plant Foods: phytoplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore ); planktivore

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Associations

Ocellate river stingrays play a role in controlling insect populations through their diet. They serve as hosts to a variety of ecto and endoparasites.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Brevimulticaecum sp. (Family Heterocheilidae, Phylum Nematoda)
  • Procamallanus sp. (Family Camallanidae, Phylum Nematoda)
  • Rhinebothrium paratrygoni (Order Rhinebothriidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Rhinebothroides mclennana (Order Rhinebothriidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Acanthobothrium regoi (Order Tetraphyllidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Acanthobothrium terezae (Order Tetraphyllidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Rhinebothroides scorzai (Order Rhinebothriidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Rhinebothroides venezuelens (Order Rhinebothriidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Potamotrygonocestus orinocoensi (Order Tetraphyllidea, Class Cestoda)
  • Eutetrarhynchus araya (Order Trypanorhyncha, Class Cestoda)
  • Leiperia gracile (Order Porocephalida, Subclass Crustacea)

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Humans regularly catch and eat ocellate river stingrays. They have few predators, although caiman are known to eat these stingrays and it is assumed that large fish may as well. However, its serrated, venomous tail spine serves as an obvious anti-predator adaptation.

Known Predators:

  • Caiman (Family Alligatoridae, Class Reptilia)
  • Human (Homo sapiens)

  • Burnie, D. 2001. Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. London, England: Doring Kindersley.
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Diseases and Parasites

Procamallanus Infection 17. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
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Procamallanus Infection 10. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
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Brevimulticaecum Infestation. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Ocellate river stingrays have eyes positioned on the dorsal surface of the head and oriented in opposition to one another, giving a nearly 360° field of vision, with little binocular overlap and blind spots directly in front of and behind the head. They have crescent-shaped pupils with dynamic irises that can adjust the pupil's size in response to light conditions. These stingrays have lateral line systems, consisting of subepidermal fluid-filled canals distributed throughout the body, which perceive changes in the surrounding water pressure. They also possess an elaborate electroreceptor system that provides for extremely sensitive perception of low-frequency electrical stimuli and allows for detection of prey that cannot be visually perceived, comprised of subdermal groups of electroreceptive units known as the ampullae of Lorenzini. It is also used for detection of predators and recognition of conspecifics, and sometimes in navigation. Olfaction is a major and well-developed means of perception for these stingrays; their olfactory organs are situated in laterally placed cartilaginous capsules on the top of the head.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical ; electric

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

  • Carrier, J., J. Musick, M. Heithaus. 2004. Biology of Sharks and their Relatives. United States of America: CRC Press LLC.
  • Knight, K. 2009. How stingrays sense their surroundings. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 212: i-ii. Accessed February 22, 2013 at http://jeb.biologists.org/content/212/19/i.full.pdf+html.
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Life Cycle

Ocellate river stingrays are ovoviviparous, with eggs approximately 30 mm in diameter at ovulation. They engage in lipidic histrophy, a mode in which developing young are provided with nutrient-rich secretions within the mother's uterus, providing for far more extensive development than the yolk sac can alone. Most development proceeds isometrically, with the overall body proportions essentially established from birth, but there are a few areas of significant allometric development. Total length relative to disk length decreases continuously throughout development, as does tail length relative to total length. This animal's eyes become less anterior in location and smaller in diameter relative to body size as development proceeds. The most rapid growth occurs early in life, tapering off in later years. Gestation of ocellate river stingrays lasts approximately 6 months in the wild, but has been observed within 3 months in an aquarium environment. From 3-21 pups may be born in a litter and the number of young in a litter is always odd. If caught, pregnant wild females are likely to abort their young.

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16 pups were born by one female in captivity (Ref. 57489).
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Life Expectancy

Information regarding lifespan in the wild is unavailable. These animals are known to survive up to 15 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
15 (high) years.

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Reproduction

Mate location methods have not been studied in this species. Information on mating systems has been observed in a captive population, and may exhibit differences from wild populations. Copulation occurs mainly at night. A male attaches himself to a female by firmly clamping his jaws onto the posterior margin of her disk, sometimes leaving prominent bite marks. Around the time of mating, the lips of the female's cloaca become swollen and bloody, presumably from copulation (this may have given rise to the folk notion that female stingrays menstruate). This species exhibits polygyny, although it has been suggested that a male will only mate every few weeks; in one study, a wild-caught male was housed with two captive-born females and, while he bred with both, fresh bite marks were not seen on both females at once, instead being seen at intervals of at least several weeks.

Mating System: polygynous

The reproductive cycle of this species is triggered and directly influenced by the hydrologic cycle of its river environment, rather than seasonal cues. Gonadal maturation takes 3-4 months and ovarian asymmetry, in which only the left ovary is functional, is a common characteristic. Ocellate river stingrays mate during the dry season, corresponding roughly to June through November. Gestation lasts for 6 months, and birthing occurs during the rainy season, corresponding roughly to December through March. Reproduction appears to follow a cycle in which one litter is birthed each year for three years in a row, followed by a several-year period of reproductive inactivity. Observations suggest that the mechanism of this cycle involves three sets of ova being induced to develop during each reproductive pause, with one set of ova finishing reproduction at the start of each breeding season. These stingrays have 3-21 pups per litter; average litter size is 7 pups and smaller females tend to give birth to fewer young. Young are independent at birth.

It has been suggested that male offspring are slightly more likely in a given litter than females (55% male to 45% females). At birth, young average 96.8 millimeters in length, with female disk diameter averaging 110-135 millimeters and male disk diameter averaging 95-120 millimeters (no data for birth mass is currently available). Age at sexual maturity has not been definitively determined, with estimates varying from 20 months to 7.5 years. Most recent studies report that sexual maturity occurs at a disc width averaging 390 mm in males and 440 mm in females, although earlier research reported sexual maturity at smaller sizes (200-250 mm and 240-320 mm, respectively). The relative length of pelvic claspers is a key indicator of sexual maturity in males, increasing from approximately 5% of total body length as juveniles to approximately 20% as mature adults.

Breeding interval: Ocellate river stingrays breed on a cycle of three years of annual reproduction followed by a several-year period of reproductive inactivity.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs during the dry season (roughly June thorugh November).

Range number of offspring: 3 to 21.

Average number of offspring: 7.

Range gestation period: 3 to 6 months.

Average gestation period: 6 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1.75 to 7.5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1.75 to 7.5 months.

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

Females continuously invest in their young during development through the constant provision of nourishment, through lipidic histrophy. Pregnant females in the wild are highly likely to abort fetuses upon capture.

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

  • Charvet-Almeida, P., M. Araújo, M. Almeida. 2005. Reproductive Aspects of Freshwater Stingrays (Chondrichthyes: Potamotrygonidae) in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science, 35: 165-171. Accessed October 15, 2012 at http://journal.nafo.int/35/charvet-almeida/22-charvet-almeida.pdf.
  • Oddone, M., G. Velasco, P. Charvet. 2012. Record of the freshwater stingrays Potamotrygon brachyura and P. motoro (Chondrichthyes, Potamotrygonidae) in the lower Uruguay river, South America. Acta Amazonica, 42/2: 299-304. Accessed October 15, 2012 at http://ref.scielo.org/sb3dhc.
  • Thorson, T., J. Langhammer, M. Oetinger. 1983. Reproduction and development of the South American freshwater stingrays, Potamotrygon circularis and P. motoro. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 9/1: 3-24. Accessed November 15, 2012 at http://www.springerlink.com/content/j524050707321838/abstract/.
  • Torres, A., A. Sampang. 2012. "Potamotrygon motoro (Müller & Henle, 1841): South American freshwater stingray" (On-line). Fishbase. Accessed February 22, 2013 at http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Potamotrygon-motoro.html.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Potamotrygon motoro

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Potamotrygon motoro

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 14
Specimens with Barcodes: 25
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

This species is categorized as "data deficient" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The status of its population is completely unknown. In many areas, no regulations exist regarding the traffic and/or exportation of freshwater stingrays; an ongoing project in Uruguay is encouraging sport fishermen to return caught stingrays to the water. It may be inferred, from the species' generalist diet and habitat, fairly widespread range, and relatively low demand as a food source, that ocellate river stingrays are most likely not currently a critical conservation concern.

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
2005

Assessor/s
Drioli, M. & Chiaramonte, G.

Reviewer/s
Musick, J.A. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This assessment is based on the information published in the 2005 shark status survey (Fowler et al. 2005).

The Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro) is a freshwater ray and one of the seven nominal species of this genus inhabiting southern South America. Although this is the most abundant and widespread endemic ray species of the Parano-plata Basin, it is poorly known and its status is uncertain due to the sparse life history and population data available for this species. Further study and a new assessment in the near future is highly recommended, due to this species' limited geographic range and the major impacts to its freshwater habitat.

History
  • 2000
    Data Deficient
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Status

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

Population
This is the most abundant and widespread endemic ray species of the Parano-plata.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
All species of river stingray in the Parano-plata Basin have delicious meat and are harpooned by fishermen when seen in shallow water. Artisanal and commercial fishermen also catch some specimens on lines. The attractively patterned juveniles of this species are collected for the ornamental fish trade. The major threats to the species possibly derive from habitat degradation caused by the damming of the Río Paraná system for navigation and hydroelectric plants and the construction of many ports along the river.
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Data deficient (DD)
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Despite being the most abundant and widespread species of Potamotrygon endemic to South America, a lack of information on its life history and the status of populations means that it is not possible to determine the extent to which the ocellate river stingray may be threatened with extinction (1). However, what is known is that a number of factors may be having a detrimental affect on this species. The ocellate river stingray is commonly hunted, with juveniles being taken for the ornamental fish trade and adults being captured for food (1) (2). When water levels in the streams and lagoons is low, or when the rivers flood and the rays can be found resting over vegetation in shallow water, the ocellate river stingray becomes an easy target for fishermen with harpoons. Some artisanal and commercial fishermen also catch this species on lines (2). Furthermore, habitat degradation in some parts of its range may threaten this species, such as the construction of hydroelectric plants and ports along the Río Paraná system (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
None.
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Conservation

A legal quota exists for the number of ocellate river stingrays that may be captured and exported, currently standing at 5,000 individuals per year, and it is said that its capture and exportation is monitored (7), although clearly, this does not in any way mitigate the threat of illegal hunting or trade. Further research on this species has been highly recommended, to enable its conservation status to be determined. Given the negative impacts of hunting and habitat degradation that the ocellate river stingray is subject to, it its possible that this freshwater stingray may be threatened (1).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

These stingrays can deliver a painful, venomous sting to humans and other organisms. Reports of incidents have become more common recently, likely due to its recent introduction to regions such as the Paraná River.

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

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Ocellate river stingrays are consumed regularly in the Parano-plata Basin. However, in many regions (such as midwestern Brazil) there is no significant commerce of stingrays for human consumption. Juveniles are considered desirable, and are regularly seen in, the ornamental fish trade.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food

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Importance

fisheries: minor commercial; aquarium: public aquariums
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Wikipedia

Ocellate river stingray

The ocellate river stingray (Potamotrygon motoro), also known as the peacock-eye stingray, is a potamodromous freshwater ray native to the basins of the Uruguay, Paraná, Orinoco, and Amazon Rivers.

Dark-colored P. motoro swimming at the New England Aquarium.

It is known to grow up to 1 m (3 ft.) TL and 15 kg (33 lb.).[2] Its disk is roughly circular in shape, and its eyes are raised from the dorsal surface. The dorsal coloration is beige or brown, with numerous light orange spots with dark rings. The arrangements of these spots can vary from fish to fish.

Ocellate river stingrays are sometimes kept in captivity, with requirements similar to other members of Potamotrygon.[3] It is one of the most common species of Potamotrygon in the aquarium.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Drioli, M. & Chiaramonte, G. (1994). Potamotrygon motoro. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 16 October 2006.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Potamotrygon motoro" in FishBase. Mar 2007 version.
  3. ^ Dawes, John (2001). Complete Encyclopedia of the Freshwater Aquarium. New York: Firefly Books Ltd. ISBN 1-55297-544-4. 
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