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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Ocean Voyager

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Western Atlantic from New Jersey to Brazil.
  • It is abundant near Florida and in the Bahamas.
  • This stingray is most commonly found on sand, in seagrass meadows, lagoons and reefs.  It also frequents bays and estuaries. 
  • As a bottom dweller, the southern stingray avoids large reef structures where it would be difficult to feed.
  • This stingray is usually found from intertidal pools to depths of 170 feet (52 m).

Physical Characteristics

  • The upper surface of the southern stingray ranges in color from solid gray to brown to olive green with no markings. The ventral side is white or whitish with a gray or brown edging.
  • Southern stingray can be distinguished from other rays by the irregular row of short spines on upper surface along the center of its back and the low dorsal keel (a structure having a longitudinal ridge resembling a ships keel) on the tail. 
  • The disc of the southern stingray is more diamond-shaped and angular than the discs of other benthic rays.
  • Maximum recorded width is 6.5 feet (200 cm), although widths of 19.7 – 31.5 inches (50-80 cm). The maximum published weight is 214 lbs (97 kg).
  • Little is known about its average life span and growth rate.

Diet / Feeding

  • Feeds primarily on bony bottom-dwelling fishes (such as scorpionfishes, toadfishes, surgeonfishes), crabs, worms, clams, and shrimp. 
  • Its flat teeth are used to crush shellfish. It spits out the shell fragments and ingests the soft body parts of the prey.
  • This ray flaps its pectoral fins near the bottom to uncover prey. Other animals often will follow the rays to pick off any animals that escape is mouth.
  • Feeds by slowly grazing along the ocean floor, using its electro-receptors and its powerful sense of smell and touch to locate prey buried in the sediment.

Reproduction / Growth

  • This ray is ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs hatch within the mother’s body and she gives birth to fully formed young.
  • Gestation is 4 to 11 months and litter sizes range from 2 to 10 pups, with an average of four pups per litter.

Conservation Status

  • “Data Deficient” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Formerly Dasyatis americana.
  • It has many names including: “kit,” “stingaree,” “stingray,” and “whip stingray.”
  • Southern stingray often stays buried in the sand during the day and emerges at night to hunt.
  • Stingrays will intentionally frequent “cleaning stations” where their external parasites are removed by cleaners such as the bluehead wrasse and Spanish hogfish. 
  • Southern stingray lives alone or with a mate, and is occasionally found in groups.
  • The barb on this ray is for defense and contains venom that produces intense pain and sometimes paralysis in humans.  It uses its whip-like tail to stab the stinger into predators. 
  • Southern stingray is a non-aggressive animal, posing little threat to humans. However, if stepped on, the ray will use its spine in defense.   
  • This ray is ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs hatch within the mother’s body and she gives birth to fully formed young. Gestation is 4 to11 months and litter sizes range from 2 to 10 pups, with an average of four pups per litter.
  • It has many names including: “kit,” “stingaree,” “stingray,” and “whip stingray.”
  • Southern stingray’s barb venom is heat sensitive, and breaks down at higher temperatures.
  • This ray has few natural predators other than large sharks, such as hammerheads. The species is not targeted by commercial fisheries, but is common in by-catch of trawl nets.
  • Indigenous people have been known to use stingray spines to make spears, knives and other tools.

Sources

www.fishbase.org
www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/SouthernStingray/SouthernStingray.html