The spotted eagle ray and its relatives are known as eagle rays due to the peculiar shape of their snouts – which are round and pointed at the tip, resembling a bird’s beak. The spotted eagle ray has an angular body disc with pointed, wing-like pectoral fins and a distinctive, spotted pattern on its back. This ray is often seen swimming either near the surface or along the bottom, and will leap completely clear of the water when pursued. It is known to feed on a wide variety of bottom-dwelling marine animals, including worms, mollusks, cephalods, crustaceans and fish, using its hard, plate-like teeth to crush the shells of its prey.
  • Size

    10.8 feet (3.3 m) to 16.4 feet (5 m)
  • Diet

    Benthic animals: worms, bivalve and gastropod mollusks, cephalopods, crustaceans and fish
  • Range

    Indo-Pacific and Eastern and Western Atlantic
  • Habitat

    Tropical and warm temperate waters

Physical Characteristics

Size

  • Adult spotted eagle ray can reach a width of 10.8 feet (3.3 m) and a total length of 16.4 feet (5 m) with an undamaged tail.
  • Can reach a maximum weight of 507 lbs. (230 kg).

Body Composition

  • Its body, or disc, is very angular and thick, with a broad snout that is flat and rounded like a duck’s bill. There are large spiracles located directly behind the eye.
  • The wing-like pectoral fins are broad with pointed tips.
  • Ray has a long whip-like tail reaching lengths of 2½ to 3 times the width of the disc. There are 2 to 6 barbed spines at the base of the tail.
  • It has a single row of broad, flat teeth in each jaw that combine to form upper and lower plates for crushing its shelled prey.

Color

  • Spotted eagle ray has a distinctive pattern of small whitish spots across the back, which is black, dark gray or bluish in color. The ventral surface is white. Its smooth skin lacks significant denticles or thorns.

 

Animal Fact

The spotted eagle ray can jump out of the water if pursued

Diet / Feeding

Diet

  • Diet consists of a wide variety of benthic animals: worms, bivalve and gastropod mollusks, cephalopods, crustaceans and fish.

Feeding Behaviors

  • Uses its snout to probe in mud for benthic invertebrates.

Range / Habitat

Range

  • Spotted eagle ray occurs across the Indo-Pacific and Eastern and Western Atlantic in tropical and warm temperate waters.

Habitat

  • Found over the continental shelf from the surface to about 262 feet (80 m) in depth. Spends most of its time in open water, though also found in coastal environments. This ray also will sometimes enter estuaries and may cross ocean basins.

Reproduction & Growth

Reproduction

  • Spotted eagle ray is ovoviviparous with the female giving birth to 2 to 4 pups after a gestation period believed to last about one year.

Growth

  • Pup is about 7 to 14 inches (17 to 35 cm) in disc width at birth.

Conservation Status

  • “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • This ray frequently forms large schools during the non-breeding season.
  • It prefers to swim either near the surface or close to the bottom and will leap completely out of the water if pursued.
  • This species is fished commercially for meat and cartilage in some locations, particularly in Southeast Asia, where populations are declining more than in other areas.
  • Taken as by-catch throughout much of its range.
  • Tail is used as a decorative item.
  • There is a row of 6 or 7 papillae (small projections) on the roof and floor of the mouth behind the teeth that are believed to separate shells from prey prior to ingestion.
  • Scientists are reevaluating the taxonomy of the spotted eagle ray because they suspect that as many as four distinct species may exist, not just one.

Sources

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