Wild Things: Stingrays
In September of 2006, Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin was killed after being stabbed in the heart by a stingray while filming an underwater documentary off the coast of Australia. So what is a stingray? And are they usually so dangerous? We've got the low-down on the most talked about marine creature of the moment!
Stingrays - Where Are They Found?
Stingrays are found in tropical coastal waters all over the world but some freshwater species exist in Asia, Africa, South America and Florida. Some of the biggest habitats for stingrays are in the Caribbean and off the coast of Australia.
Stingrays - The Basics
Properly knows as Dasyatids, stingrays are a distant relative of sharks. There are many species of stingrays, ranging from ones that are smaller than a human hand to up to six feet in diameter. Stingrays swim by flapping their pectoral wings in a motion that looks more like flying than swimming. They are bottom feeding creatures but stingrays have eyes on top of their heads so they use their sense of smell to find their dinner, which ususally consists of molluscs and small crustaceans (like crabs).
Stingrays - Friend or Foe?
Stingrays get their name from their razor-sharp stinger, which is a barbed or serrated "cartilaginous spine" that comes out of the stingray's whip-like tail. There are two grooves running under the spine that contain venom-secreting glandular tissue. Stingrays are not normally considered aggressive and usually prefer to flee when they are frightened rather than attack. If humans are stung, it is most often in the foot after they step on a stingray. The sting causes pain and swelling and sometimes infection. However, cases of humans being killed by stingrays - like Steve Irwin - are extremely rare.
Stingrays - Did U Know?
- Stingrays are part of a popular Malaysian dish called Ikan baker.
- There are several dive sites in the Cayman Islands where divers can swim with large southern stingrays and feed them by hand.
- Scientists estimate that only 30 people have been killed by stingrays worldwide in recent years.
- There are species of ray - including the large manta ray - that are not actually stingrays because they have no stinger.