Eagle Rays: Characteristics, habitats, reproduction and more

The Eagle Rays are a group of cartilaginous fish that belong to the Myliobatidae family. They are basically  a big species of rays   that unlike other species, tend to live in the open ocean instead of at the bottom of the sea. They belong to the  Aetobatus genus which is a word derived from the Greek meaning Eagle (AETOS) and Ray (Batis).

 The Eagle Rays’ Main Characteristics

These rays have a very long tail and a well-defined body whose size oscillates between 48 centimeters to the 9 meters length.  Their color is inky blue with white spots on their top, while their tail can reach up to 5 meters long. The Eagle Rays also have a very angular disc and a wide, rounded snout, which resembles a duck´s beak with a «v » in the form of a flap.

Their pectoral disc has angular abruptly curved corners, and without caudal fin. As for their jaws, they contain a single row of flat, chevron-shaped teeth. Each tooth is a crescent-shaped plate joined to a band. These marine species swim by moving their two wings vertically and sometimes break the sea´ s surface, causing the impression of being two sharks traveling together. The eagle Ray can also jump out and across the surface of the water.

These creatures are regarded as a shy, cautious species with divers and difficult to approach because they tend to move away from them. Therefore, they don´t represent a real threat for  divers as long as they are left alone to enjoy their natural habitat without any difficulty. However, they are considered a potentially dangerous species, because of their poisonous tail spines, which can cause serious wounds if the human gets too close.

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What Do  Eagle Rays Feed On?

They feed on mollusks and crustaceans such as clams,  shrimps, oysters, octopus, squid, sea urchins and bony fish. They crush their   preys´ shells with their flattened and very strong teeth and they are very fast swimmers, which allows them to hunt efficiently. These  rays use their beaks in the form of a shovel, to look for food in the mud. When they find their prey, the eagle rays crush them with their teeth, and use the papillae in their mouth to separate the shells from the flesh.

eagle rays : anatomy and characteristics

How  do Eagle Rays Reproduce?

These rays are ovoviviparous creatures, which means that their eggs are incubated and develop inside the female´s body. They feed initially on yolk,  receiving later an additional mother’s food fluid enriched with mucus, fat, and proteins. The eagle rays tend to give birth to six offspring at a time, whose width varies from 17 to 35 centimeters. Their mating behavior consists of many male eagle rays chasing a female.

The male chases the female in the middle of the water, and then bites her dorsal surface. The female stops swimming to begin copulation. The male bites the female on her pectoral fin and bends a clasper forward, then attempts to carry out an abdomen to abdomen copulation with any of his claspers. Copulation lasts between 20 seconds and 1 minute, which makes it possible for females to mate with up to four males in a short period of time.

Where do  Eagle Rays Inhabit?

These rays tend to inhabit warm and tropical waters; however, they have been seen occasionally entering estuaries. They swim near the surface, jumping out of the water or near the bottom. They are commonly seen swimming in bays and around coral reefs. However, they spend most of their time, swimming in groups in open waters. Eagle rays swim in large groups just below the water´s surface where they travel very long distances, but usually return to their original location where they interact with other eagle rays.

Conservation Status

The  eagle are regarded as an «almost -threatened» species by the World Union for Nature (IUCN), despite having little commercial importance, as their meat is difficult to eat. However, their use in aquariums represents their main threat. We invite you to read our article marine rays to learn about other marine rays´species.

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