The southern stingray is bottom-dwelling, often found in the western Atlantic Ocean. During the spring and summer months, this ray migrates to northern coastal waters as far as Cape Cod, then returns south to warmer waters in the fall and winter months.
The southern stingray can be identified by its brown to gray coloration, its long tail and the pair of short fins at the base of its tail, known as claspers, which are used during breeding. Southern stingrays are viviparous—meaning that embryos are fertilized and developed inside of the female’s body, and the female gives birth to live pups. Pups are born in the summer and females give birth to an average of four pups per litter, but larger rays can give birth to as many as 10 pups!
These rays breathe in water through two openings just behind their eyes on their top side, called spiracles. The water is then expelled through two rows of five gill slits on their undersides. This allows the rays to breathe even when they are buried in the sand of the ocean floor!
Southern stingrays use a combination of touch, smell and an electric sense to find prey. Similar to their close relatives, sharks, southern stingrays use specialized organs to detect the electrical fields generated by their prey’s muscles and nerves. As they swim through the water, rays use their wing-like fins to uncover prey buried in the bottom of the sand after sensing their electrical presence.
Prey for these rays includes crabs, shrimp, clams, small fishes, marine worms and other crustaceans. The southern stingray’s mouth opening on its underside delivers food to powerful plates that enable the ray to crush the thick shells of its prey!
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