Cownose Stingray (Rhinoptera bonasus)
The Cownose Stingray is a species of eagle ray found throughout a large part of the western Atlantic and Caribbean, from New England, USA to southern Brazil. These rays swim near the coastline and can be found in waters up to 72 feet deep.
The cownose ray is a rapidly growing species. Pups are typically 11 to 18 inches in width at birth. A mature specimen can grow to 45 inches in width, and weigh 50 pounds or more. Typically they are brown-backed with a whitish or yellowish belly. Although its coloration is not particularly distinctive, its shape is easily recognizable. It has a broad head with wide-set eyes, and a pair of distinctive lobes on its subrostral fin. It also has a set of dental plates designed for crushing clams and oyster shells. There are a series of canine teeth that are hidden behind the dental plates. When threatened the cownose ray can use the barb at the base of its tail to defend itself from the threat. This barb has teeth lining its lateral edges, and is coated with a weak venom that causes symptoms similar to that of a bee sting.
The cownose ray feeds upon clams, oysters, hard clams and other invertebrates. It uses two modified fins on its front side to produce suction, which allows it to draw food into its mouth, where it crushes its food with its dental plates. Cownose rays typically swim in groups, which allows them to use their synchronized wing flaps to stir up sediment and expose buried clams and oysters.
Although cownose rays can grow large enough to fend off most predators, they are still hunted by large sharks such as great hammerhead and bull sharks.
Information courtesy of wikipedia.org./wiki/cownose_ray, neaq.org
Photo courtesy of newportaquarium.com