Southern Atlantic Stingray (Dasyatis americana)

© 2000 by Image Quest 3-D
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Photograph by Carlos Villoch

The Southern Stingray, Family Dasyatidae, has a wide distribution ranging from the Nearctic waters as far north as New Jersey, throughout the Carribean, and in Neotropic waters as far south as coastal central South America. However, it is most abundant in Florida and the Bahamas.

Southern Stingrays are almost completely flat. The entire body consists of a disc-shaped body with no distinct head. At the end of the body is a long whip-like tail that contains one or more razor-sharp serrated barbs. These barbs allow the ray to "sting" humans, and for this reason it is potentially dangerous. When stepped upon, the ray lashes its tail up and attempts to drive it into the intruder as a self-defense mechanism. The spines on the stingray's tail cut and tear the flesh, and the ray also injects a poison. Although not life threatening, the poison is a protein that can cause depressed respiration. The stings can be extremely painful. More serious stings result from the stingray than from any other species of fish

However, these rays are extremely unagressive creatures and they do not attack anything with their tail. It is used soley as a defense mechanism. When swimming, stingrays are not even capable of directing their tail and are relatively defenseless. It is a very poor deterrent against the ray's main predator, the shark, to which it is closely related. Many native people of the Polynesia, Malaysia, Central America, and Africa have used the spines of stingrays to make spears and knives. In many cases these people would cut off the entire tail to be used as a deadly whip


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2001 by Image Quest 3-D
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