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Reaching widths of nearly 11 feet (over 3 m), the spotted eagle ray is one of the largest Eagle Rays, with only the mantas growing bigger. Spotted Eagle Rays, like all eagle rays, are active swimmers and do not lie motionless on the seafloor. They are foraging predators and are known to eat a variety of invertebrate and fish prey. Just like the name implies, the spotted eagle ray is covered in spots and other markings. It is unmistakable with any other species throughout its range.
As an adult, reaches a length of 5,2m. The wide pectoral fins create a rhomboid body shape. At the base of the tail are 31 venomous spines. The mandible is longer than the maxillary, thus enabling easier access to burrowing animals such as mollusks, crustaceans and other invertebrates.
Spotted Eagle Rays live along the open coast in warm waters throughout the world, though they are often associated with coral reefs and sometimes enter protected bays to feed or mate. They are generally considered a coastal species, but the worldwide geographic distribution implies that some individuals must migrate far distances over deep water. It is possible; however, that further genetic study will reveal that spotted eagle rays in different ocean basins (e.g., Atlantic vs. Pacific oceans) are actually different species.
Spotted Eagle Rays reproduce via internal fertilization and give live birth. However, they do not connect to their young through a placenta, like in most mammals. Instead, embryos live off of energy obtained from yolk sacs, and only after the juveniles are able to survive on their own does the mother give birth to her young (1 - 4 pups). This low reproductive potential, along with their natural rarity, contributes to experts considering spotted eagle rays as ‘near threatened’ with extinction. Worldwide populations are declining, and careful monitoring is necessary to ensure that conservation measures can be enacted should populations reach threateningly low numbers.
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