Bluespotted Maskray (Neotrygon kuhlii)
The bluespotted maskray is a medium sized stingray species, growing up to 40cm in disc width, and 70cm in total length. It is brown-grey in coloration, with faint blue/black spots along its back, as well as a dark band across the eyes. This species of ray is distributed throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific, and is found along the north coast of Australia, from central Western Australia to northern New South Wales.
The bluespotted maskray is adapted for life on the sea floor; with a flattened body, eyes on top of the head, and its mouth on the underside. This ray feeds on a variety of animals that live in the sand, including crustaceans, mollusks, worms and small fish. To find their prey, rays have an amazing extra sense known as electroreception, which allows them to sense electrical impulses given off by an animal’s twitching muscles. This includes things even as small as an animal’s heartbeat, which is something they can never switch off. The ray will swim above the surface of the sand, and when it feels these electrical impulses beneath itself; it will dig down into the sand, pin the prey down with its pectoral fins and chomp down on its prey. Instead of having teeth, rays have fused crushing plates in their mouths, which are perfect for cracking open the shells of their prey.
Stingrays are armed with venomous barbs on their tails, which are purely used for defense. To avoid getting stung, just give these animals some distance, never touch or grab them, and while walking through shallow sandy areas, shuffle your feet through the sand. The rays will feel the vibrations and swim off before you get too close. Rays are an amazing group of animals, with over 500 species worldwide, and many yet to be discovered! These photos were taken out the front of Tangalooma.
Eco Ranger Pat