Thorntail stingray

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Thorntail stingray
Thorntail stingray new zealand2.jpg
Scientific classification
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D. thetidis
Binomial name
Dasyatis thetidis
Dasyatis thetidis rangemap.png
Range of the thorntail stingray [2]
Synonyms

Dasyatis lubricusSmith, 1957
Dasybatus agulhensisBarnard, 1925

Contents

The thorntail stingray, black stingray, or longtail stingray (Dasyatis thetidis) is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. It is found off southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand from the intertidal zone to a depth of 440 m (1,440 ft). This bottom-dweller inhabits soft-bottomed habitats such as lagoons, estuaries, and reefs. Growing to 1.8 m (5.9 ft) across and over 200 kg (440 lb) in weight, the thorntail stingray is among the largest stingrays in the world. Uniformly dark above and light below, it has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a very long, whip-like tail with a fin fold underneath. The upper surface of the disc and the tail bear numerous stout, sharp thorns.

The diet of the thorntail stingray consists of benthic invertebrates and bony fishes. It has been known to gather in large groups during summertime. Like other stingrays, it is aplacental viviparous, with the developing embryos sustained to term by histotroph ("uterine milk") produced by the mother. The venomous stinging spine of the thorntail stingray can inflict a painful injury, though it is not aggressive towards humans. It is caught by commercial and recreational fishers, though the impact of such activities on its population is unknown. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species as Data Deficient. A Thorntail stingray with a width of 1.67m and length of 2.35m was caught and released of Warner Beach, South Africa in Jan 2020.

Taxonomy

A thorntail stingray at Green Island, New South Wales. Dasyatis thetidis.jpg
A thorntail stingray at Green Island, New South Wales.

Australian ichthyologist James Douglas Ogilby originally described the thorntail stingray from four specimens collected off New South Wales during the 1898 scientific expedition of the trawler HMCS Thetis, after which the species was named. His account was published a year later in the scientific journal Memoirs of the Australian Museum. [3] Other common names for this species include black skate, black stingaree, long-tailed stingaree, longtail black stingray, thorn stingray, and thorntail ray. [4]

Distribution and habitat

The thorntail stingray is found off southern Africa from Algoa Bay, South Africa to Barra da Falsa, Mozambique and Réunion, as well as off Australia from Shark Bay to northern New South Wales, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and New Zealand. [5] [6] It is fairly common off Australia and New Zealand and less so elsewhere. [1] [7] Favoring inshore habitats with soft bottoms, this benthic species is commonly encountered in estuaries and lagoons, around rocky and coral reefs, and over reef flats. In Australia, it has been known to swim up rivers. Off New Zealand, large groups of thorntail stingrays have been seen inside caves and beneath rocky arches. This species is known to occur as deep as 440 m (1,440 ft). [1] [8]

Description

The presence of numerous thorns on the back and tail are a characteristic trait of the thorntail stingray. Thorntail stingray new zealand.jpg
The presence of numerous thorns on the back and tail are a characteristic trait of the thorntail stingray.

One of the largest members of its family, the thorntail stingray reaches at least 4 m (13 ft) long, 1.8 m (5.9 ft) across, and 214 kg (472 lb) in weight. This species has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc about one-fourth wider than long, with sinuous leading margins converging to a slightly protruding snout tip and rounded outer and trailing margins. The mouth is slightly arched; there are five papillae across the floor with the outermost pair smaller and set apart from the others. The tooth rows number 25–43 in the upper jaw and 29–48 in the lower jaw, and are arranged with a quincunx pattern into pavement-like surfaces. [3] [5]

The pelvic fins have rounded tips and gently curved trailing margins. [5] The whip-like tail measures about twice the length of the disc and bears one or two long stinging spines with up to 88 serrations. [9] A narrow fin fold runs beneath the tail and ends well before the tail tip. Large juveniles and adults have a row of large, sharp thorns running along the midline of the back from behind the eyes to the tail spine, and thorns of various sizes are also scattered about the dorsal surface of the disc. The tail behind the spine is densely covered by stout thorns. This species is a uniform dark brown or gray to black above and whitish below. [5] The longer tail, presence of thorns, and absence of white dots atop the disc differentiate this species from the short-tail stingray (D. brevicaudata), another giant stingray that shares its range. [7]

Biology and ecology

Thorntail stingrays often rest on the bottom during the day. Dasyatis thetidis 2.jpg
Thorntail stingrays often rest on the bottom during the day.

During the day, thorntail stingrays are often seen resting on patches of sand. [10] This species preys mainly upon crabs, mantis shrimp, bivalves, polychaete worms, and conger eels. [1] Off New Zealand, both it and the short-tail stingray regularly fall prey to local killer whales (Orcinus orca). [11] A known parasite of this species is the nematode Echinocephalus overstreeti. [12] Thorntail stingrays have been reported to congregate in warm, shallow waters during the summer, possibly for reproductive purposes. [8] This species is aplacental viviparous like other stingrays. [4]

Human interactions

The tail spine of the thorntail stingray is potentially injurious to humans. [4] It is reportedly unaggressive and approachable, and can be conditioned to accept being "ridden" by divers. [10] At Hamelin Bay, Western Australia, many thorntail stingrays, short-tail stingrays, and Australian bull rays (Myliobatis australis) regularly gather to be hand-fed fish scraps; the number of visitors has steadily increased in recent years, and there is interest in developing the site as a permanent tourist attraction. [13]

Thorntail stingrays are caught as bycatch in nets and on line gear, probably in low numbers. Most individuals landed are discarded, though the rate of survival after capture is unknown, as this species may be subject to persecution by fishery workers. Recreational anglers sometimes hook this ray, which may be difficult to bring in due to its size. At present, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lacks sufficient information to assess the thorntail stingray beyond Data Deficient. From 1986 to 1997, New Zealand reported an average annual catch of 15 tons for this species and the short-tail stingray combined, though this figure may underestimate the total fishery impact. [1] In June 2018 the New Zealand Department of Conservation classified the thorntail stingray as "Not Threatened" with the qualifier "Secure Overseas" under the New Zealand Threat Classification System. [14]

Related Research Articles

Short-tail stingray

The short-tail stingray or smooth stingray is a common species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. It occurs off southern Africa, typically offshore at a depth of 180–480 m (590–1,570 ft), and off southern Australia and New Zealand, from the intertidal zone to a depth of 156 m (512 ft). It is mostly bottom-dwelling in nature and can be found across a range of habitats from estuaries to reefs, but also frequently will swim into open water. The largest stingray in the world, this heavy-bodied species can grow upwards of 2.1 m (6.9 ft) across and 350 kg (770 lb) in weight. Its plain-colored, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc is characterized by a lack of dermal denticles even in adults, and white pores beside the head on either side. The body can have colors as well as dark grey or black with rows of white spots along each wing. Its tail is usually shorter than the disc and thick at the base. It is armed with large tubercles and a midline row of large thorns in front of the stinging spine which has the dorsal and ventral fin folds behind.

Round ribbontail ray

The round ribbontail ray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, found throughout the nearshore waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific, as well as off islands in the eastern Pacific. It is a bottom-dwelling inhabitant of lagoons, estuaries, and reefs, generally at a depth of 20–60 m (66–197 ft). Reaching 1.8 m (5.9 ft) across, this large ray is characterized by a thick, rounded pectoral fin disc covered by small tubercles on top, and a relatively short tail bearing a deep ventral fin fold. In addition, it has a variable but distinctive light and dark mottled pattern on its upper surface, and a black tail.

Longtail stingray

The longtail stingray, is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Baja California to Colombia. It inhabits sandy habitats down to a depth of 90 m (300 ft). Measuring up to 1.56 m (5.1 ft) across, this species has a rhomboid pectoral fin disc, a lower fin fold on the tail, and numerous dermal denticles along the back and behind the stinging spine. The longtail stingray feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling bony fishes and crustaceans. It is aplacental viviparous, with females giving birth to 1–5 young in late summer. At present, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is unable to assess this species beyond Data Deficient. It is caught for food, likely throughout its range, but specific fishery data is lacking.

Estuary stingray

The estuary stingray, also called the estuary stingaree or brown stingray, is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. Endemic to eastern Australia, it typically inhabits shallow, mangrove-lined tidal rivers, estuaries, and bays in southern Queensland and New South Wales. This yellow-brown to olive ray grows to at least 93 cm (37 in) across. It has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a mostly smooth, whip-like tail bearing both dorsal and ventral fin folds. It can additionally be identified by its long, narrow nostrils and the row of thorns along the midline of its back.

Longnose stingray

The longnose stingray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, native to the western Atlantic Ocean from the southern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Found in coastal waters no deeper than 36 m (118 ft), this demersal species favors muddy or sandy habitats. The longnose stingray is characterized by its angular, rhomboid pectoral fin disc, moderately projecting snout, and whip-like tail with a dorsal keel and ventral fin fold. It typically grows to 1.25 m (4.1 ft) across and is brownish above and light-colored below.

The Brazilian large-eyed stingray, Dasyatis marianae, is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. Endemic to northeastern Brazil, adults of this species inhabit shallow coral and sandstone reefs while the young are also found near beaches and in estuaries. This stingray measures up to 40 cm (16 in) across and can be identified by its large eyes, equally long fin folds above and below the tail, and distinctive coloration consisting of various dark brown markings on a yellowish-brown background above, and two pairs of dark brown blotches on a white background below. Reproduction is aplacental viviparous, with females giving birth to one young at a time, twice a year, and using sandbanks as nursery areas. The Brazilian large-eyed stingray is collected by artisanal fisheries and for the ornamental fish trade; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not have sufficient data to assess its conservation status.

Common stingaree

The common stingaree is a species of stingray in the family Urolophidae. The most abundant ray in inshore waters off eastern Australia, it generally inhabits estuaries, sandy flats, and rocky reefs from the shore to a depth of 60 m (200 ft). This plain brownish to grayish species has a rounded pectoral fin disc with a broadly triangular snout. Its nostrils have enlarged lobes on their outer margins and a skirt-shaped curtain of skin with a fringed posterior margin between them. Its tail bears a small dorsal fin before the stinging spine, and terminates in a leaf-shaped caudal fin. This ray can grow to 52 cm (20 in) long.

The circular stingaree is an uncommon, little-known species of stingray in the family Urolophidae. Endemic to the coastal waters of southwestern Australia, it prefers a rocky and/or vegetated habitat. Reaching 60 cm (24 in) in length, this species is characterized by an oval pectoral fin disc bearing a striking dorsal pattern of lighter spots and rings, and a central circle of white-margined black spots, on a bluish gray background. Between its nostrils is a skirt-shaped curtain of skin, with the posterior corners drawn out into lobes. Its tail bears a rather large dorsal fin in front of the stinging spine, and ends in a deep, lance-like caudal fin. Negligibly affected by human activity, the circular stingaree has been listed under Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Wide stingaree

The wide stingaree is a little-known species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, found off southwestern Australia. It typically occurs over sand in water 200–300 m (660–980 ft) deep around the edge of the continental shelf. This species has a broad diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc, a slightly pointed snout, and a tail with a leaf-like caudal fin, skin folds along either side, and no dorsal fins. Between its nostrils is a skirt-shaped curtain of skin. It is grayish green above, with faint bluish lines beside and behind the eyes. The maximum length on record is 52 cm (20 in).

Spotted stingaree

The spotted stingaree is an uncommon species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, endemic to shallow waters along the coast of southern Australia. It favors rocky reefs and seagrass beds. This species can be readily identified by its nearly circular, dark-colored pectoral fin disc, adorned with a complex pattern of white or cream spots. Its eastern and western forms differ slightly in coloration and have been regarded as separate species. There is a skirt-shaped curtain of skin between its nostrils. Its tail is fairly thick and terminates in a short leaf-shaped caudal fin; a relatively large dorsal fin is present just in front of the stinging spine.

The lobed stingaree is a common species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, endemic to southern Western Australia in shallow, inshore sand and seagrass habitats. This species is plain sandy in color above and has a broad, rounded pectoral fin disc. It is characterized by an enlarged, semicircular skin lobe of unknown function on the inner rim of each nostril. Its tail is slender, with lateral skin folds and a lance-like caudal fin but no dorsal fin. The maximum recorded width is 27 cm (11 in).

The mitotic stingaree or blotched stingaree is a little-known species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, so named because it has light blue blotches on its back that resemble cells undergoing mitotic division. Though not uncommon, it is found only in a small area of the outer continental shelf off northwestern Australia, at around 200 m (660 ft) down. This species attains a length of 29 cm (11 in) long and has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc with broadly rounded corners and a skirt-shaped curtain of skin between the nostrils. Its tail has subtle skin folds running along either side, no dorsal fin, and a slender leaf-shaped caudal fin. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the mitotic stingaree under Least Concern, as there is little fishing within its range.

The Coral Sea stingaree is a little-known species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, found at a depth of 171–310 m (561–1,017 ft) around the edge of the continental shelf off northern Queensland. Growing to a length of 48 cm (19 in), this species has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc with a protruding snout and a skirt-shaped flap of skin between the nostrils. Its tail bears a low dorsal fin before the stinging spine and terminates in a short leaf-shaped caudal fin. Its upper surface is grayish or brownish, sometimes with tiny dark spots. The Coral Sea stingaree may represent two closely similar species, one large and one small. There is very little fishing activity within its range, and thus it has been listed under Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Kapala stingaree

The Kapala stingaree is a species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, endemic to inshore waters off southeastern Queensland and New South Wales. It is commonly found on and around rocky reefs at a depth of 10–130 m (33–427 ft). Reaching 51 cm (20 in) in length, the Kapala stingaree has a rounded, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a slender tail, which ends in a leaf-shaped caudal fin and bears lateral skin folds and a small dorsal fin in front of the stinging spine. It has a distinctive bell-shaped curtain of skin between its nostrils. This species is greenish above, with a highly variable pattern of dark markings usually found outside and between the eyes, and over the back and tail.

Greenback stingaree

The greenback stingaree is a little-known species of stingray in the family Urolophidae, endemic to the outer continental shelf and upper continental slope off southeastern Australia. Growing to a length of 51 cm (20 in), this species has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc wider than long and uniformly light green in color above. Between its nostrils is a skirt-shaped curtain of skin. Its tail bears skin folds on either side and a deep, lanceolate caudal fin, but lacks a dorsal fin.

Broad stingray

The broad stingray, also known as the brown stingray or Hawaiian stingray, is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. The predominant species of stingray in the inshore waters of the Hawaiian Islands, this benthic fish typically inhabits sandy or muddy flats at depths greater than 15 m (49 ft). Usually growing to 1 m (3 ft) across, the broad stingray has a wide, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc with a protruding snout tip and a long tail with a ventral fin fold. At night, this species actively forages for bottom-dwelling invertebrates and bony fishes, often near the boundaries of reefs. Reproduction is aplacental viviparous. As substantial threats to its population do not seem to exist, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed this species as least concern.

Roughtail stingray

The roughtail stingray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, with separate populations in coastal waters of the northwestern, eastern, and southwestern Atlantic Ocean. This bottom-dwelling species typically inhabits sandy or muddy areas with patches of invertebrate cover, at a depth of 15–50 m (49–164 ft). It is seasonally migratory, overwintering in offshore waters and moving into coastal habitats for summer. The largest whip-tail stingray in the Atlantic, the roughtail stingray grows up to 2.6 m (8.5 ft) across and 360 kg (800 lb) in weight. It is plain in color, with an angular, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a long, whip-like tail bearing a subtle fin fold underneath. The many thorns on its back and tail serve to distinguish it from other stingrays that share its range.

Smalleye stingray

The smalleye stingray is a large species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, measuring up to 2.2 m (7.2 ft) across. Rare but widely distributed, it is found in the Indo-Pacific from Mozambique to India to northern Australia. This species may be semi-pelagic in nature, inhabiting both deeper waters and shallow coastal reefs and estuaries. It is characterized by a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc much wider than long, a tail that is broad and flattened in front of the spine but whip-like behind, and large white spots over its back.

Jenkins whipray

The Jenkins' whipray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, with a wide distribution in the Indo-Pacific region from South Africa to the Malay Archipelago to northern Australia. This large species grows to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) across and has a broad, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a whip-like tail without fin folds. It has a band of heart-shaped dermal denticles running from between the eyes to the tail on its upper surface, along with a characteristic row of large spear-like thorns along the midline. It is uniform yellowish brown above, becoming grayish on the tail past the stinging spine, and white below; there is apparently a spotted color variant that had previously been described as a different species, the dragon stingray.

Dwarf black stingray

The dwarf black stingray is a little-known species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, found off northwestern Australia and perhaps throughout Southeast Asia at depths of 60–185 m (197–607 ft). Growing to a width of 51 cm (20 in), this species is characterized by an angular, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc with a short row of spear-like thorns along the midline of the back and few dermal denticles elsewhere. Its tail bears a long fin fold along the bottom and a much shorter ridge along the top, both past the stinging spine. Plain brownish in color above, this ray can range from light to very dark. In some parts of its range, this species is occasionally caught incidentally by fisheries and sold for meat.

References

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  12. Moravec, F. & J.L. Justine (2006). "Three nematode species from elasmobranchs off New Caledonia". Systematic Parasitology. 64 (2): 131–145. doi:10.1007/s11230-006-9034-x. PMID   16773474.
  13. Lewis, A. & D. Newsome (2003). "Planning for Stingray Tourism at Hamelin Bay, Western Australia: the Importance of Stakeholder Perspectives". International Journal of Tourism Research. 5 (5): 331–346. doi:10.1002/jtr.442.
  14. Duffy, Clinton A. J.; Francis, Malcolm; Dunn, M. R.; Finucci, Brit; Ford, Richard; Hitchmough, Rod; Rolfe, Jeremy (2018). Conservation status of New Zealand chondrichthyans (chimaeras, sharks and rays), 2016 (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Conservation. p. 10. ISBN   9781988514628. OCLC   1042901090.