11 Different Types of Stingrays (Plus Interesting Facts)

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Scuba diver interacting with a stingray


Stingrays are a type of fish that have flat, wide bodies that make them distinct. They like shallow and warm water so they’re often found in tropical and subtropical waters where they hide on the seafloor.

The largest stingray measured 6.5 feet in length with a weight of 790 pounds. Check out other interesting facts about them and its many different types below.

Basic Types of Stingrays

Bat Rays

A close-up picture of a bat ray

This is a type of eagle ray that is usually located in sandy or muddy sloughs, as well as kelp beds, bays and estuaries, and even the rocky-bottom shoreline in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean. They can also be found around the Galapagos Islands.

Their wingspans can get to nearly six feet and their weight up to 200 pounds. Most interestingly, bat rays can live in all different types of salinities, which means that they can live in just about any environment or body of water. The bat ray has a more distinctive-looking facial area than other types of stingrays, and its wings come to a point at the end.

Butterfly Rays

Butterfly rays include stingrays such as zone-tail, smooth, Australian, backwater, and California butterfly rays, and they are exceptionally large; in some, in fact, their diamond-shaped bodies get up to 13 feet across. They also look a little different than most other stingrays, with very short tails and bodies that are very flat.

They have a pointy, long snout and thorn-like protrusions on their backs, although the protrusions do not sting animals or people. This is the only species of stingrays found in the Australia area, and are mostly seen in New South Wales and the Shark Bay area.

Deepwater Stingrays

Like other families of stingrays, the Plesiobatidae family has only one member, and that is the deep-water stingray. It is also called the giant stingaree by some experts and lives over 2,200 feet below the surface of the ocean, although it can swim in and out of the water if it wishes to.

It can reach up to nine feet in length and is commonly found in the Indo-Pacific area. It also has a very broad-angled snout and is dark at the top and light-colored underneath. Deepwater stingrays eat mostly boney fish and crustaceans, and they have an oval-shaped pectoral disc and a leaf-shaped fin at the tip of their tails.

Eagle Rays

An eagle ray is swimming in the ocean together with a school of fish.

Although most stingrays swim close to the bottom of the ocean, eagle rays are active swimmers in the open ocean, and, in fact, they are known to leap in and out of the water while they swim. They prefer tropical temperatures and therefore are often found in the Caribbean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Along with the spotted eagle ray, eagle rays are very commonly found members of the stingray family. They are also located in the North Atlantic seas, and they are often found with the ornate, mottled, banded, and bat eagle rays.

Electric Rays

Here is an electric ray as pictured underwater. They are very powerful, able to generate up to 200 volts and 30 amperes of electricity with each zap.

While stingrays sting, manta rays are too large to have enemies, and skates use barbs to defend themselves, the electric rays instead use electric shocks to stun their prey. The shocks come from special electric organs located on both sides of their heads.

They are also very powerful, able to generate up to 200 volts and 30 amperes of electricity with each zap. This is more than enough to take out small prey and injure or shock a human being. In fact, according to many experts, the electric rays are more electrically sensitive than any other animal.

Electric rays are fairly large in size and can get up to six feet in diameter. They have a very round shape, thick tails, and rounded dorsal fins. Instead of using their pectoral fins to swim as most other stingrays do, these rays use their tails for swimming. They are also located very deep under the ocean, as they can go as far down as 3,000 feet.

Manta Rays

Manta ray

Also called devil rays because of the two horn-like flaps in their mouths, manta rays are very large in size. In fact, some can get up to nearly 30 feet in length and can weigh up to two tons. Despite their size, however, manta rays are not dangerous and never hurt either people or animals.

They are quite curious, however, and often like to swim around the divers in the ocean. Because of this, they are protected in most areas, even though some people still hunt them illegally. Moreover, they sometimes are seen jumping out of the water, which they do to get rid of parasites. Manta rays prefer warm waters and can be found in areas such as Japan, Rhode Island, and in the waters of Southern California.

Round Rays

Round ray

Consisting of a slender tail and a pectoral disc that is very round in shape, the round rays make up the Urotrygonidae stingray family. They are also without dorsal fins. Round rays like warm water and they are very abundant among other stingrays of the same size.

They are mostly found in warm waters in places such as the Caribbean Sea and the coastlines of both North and South America. Included in this species are the yellow stingray, the Chilean round ray, and the Haller’s round ray. Round ray stingrays are mostly brown in color and sometimes have a spotted or mottled look, and their undersides are an orangish-white color. They are also very hardy and become quite tame when found in captivity.

Sixgill Stingrays

The only member of the Hexatrygonidae family of stingrays, the sixgill stingray has six separate pairs of gill openings, as compared to the five that most other stingrays have, hence its name. It also has gill arches and a snout that is triangular in shape.

The sixgill stingray is found in areas such as India, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Hawaii, and South Africa, and they usually swim in areas 1,100 to 3,600 feet below the surface of the ocean. Their snouts are particularly long and flexible, and they have up to 100 rows of very tiny, blunt teeth in their mouths. They are quite large as well, as many of them get up to five feet long.

Skates

Skates

Skates are very similar to stingrays but have a few differences. For one thing, skates have no stings but instead, they have sharp barbs found alongside their spines and sometimes on their tails, which they use for defense. Their tails are also wider than those on stingrays, and they have small fins near the tip of their tails.

Skates are also either round or triangle in shape and have elongated noses, unlike the noses of the stingray, which are usually diamond-shaped. In fact, skates are only found in marine habitats, and they lay eggs which hatch while they are on the outside of the female’s body. They eat mostly crabs, shellfish, and worms. They are also harvested commercially for their wings, which are eaten in certain parts of the world, and they are virtually harmless to humans.

Standard Stingray

Standard stingray

Stingrays have long, thin tales which contain barbed nodes that sting. Not all of the stingrays have this feature, but most do. The toxin the tails spew out is very painful when ejected, although stingrays tend not to sting people or animals unless they feel threatened.

Standard stingrays are easily identifiable and very common, and they have diamond shapes. They can often be found half-buried deep in the ocean underneath the sand, where they are looking for food. Some stingrays, however, swim by leaping in and out of the water.

Stingrays give birth to live young, and they are found in both freshwater and saltwater locations. They are also found in nearly every body of water on the planet, and people always recognize them by their shape and design.

Whiptail Stingrays

Whiptail stingray

Not surprisingly, these stingrays have tails shaped like whips, and at the tips are barbs, which are poisonous. Most whiptails are found in saltwater environments, but many have been known to inhabit freshwater areas as well, including Southeast Asia. This species includes blue, rough-tail, pelagic, sharp-nose, mask, and porcupine stingrays.

Although most whiptail stingrays look alike and have drab-colored features, some of them may have small blue or leopard-like spots, a honeycomb pattern, or even white spots that run along the sides of each of the discs. These stingrays also spend a lot of time under the sand and mud at the bottom of the sea with only their eyes protruding. This is because they are hiding from their prey, as they get tired very easily when they swim and wish to be safe when they’re not swimming.

Basic Information about Stingrays

The underside image of a manta ray that is swimming together with a school of fish.

Starting at the Beginning

Stingrays usually have flat bodies and a long, thin tail, which is where the stingers are if they are this type of ray. When they do produce venom, it is very powerful and can do great damage. Most of the time, stingrays do not sting or harm people unless they feel threatened, as they usually only attack when they feel their lives are in danger. You can become very ill or even die if you are stung by a stingray, depending on the specific situation.

Most often, stingrays are a murky color to enable them to blend in well with everything around them. They come in various shades depending on the species and their particular habitat, but they are usually a drab color because this is the best way to blend in and protect themselves from predators. Since stingrays spend most of their time inactive and close to the bottom of the ocean or sea, this is an important capability for them.

Stingrays are usually found in oceans, but they can also be found in numerous other bodies of water, as well. Although they prefer warm, tropical water, they are found in both freshwater and saltwater bodies of water. They are subdivided into eight different families or types, which include:

  • Dasyatidae – whiptail stingrays
  • Gymnuridae – butterfly rays
  • Hexatrygonidae – sixgill stingray
  • Myliobatidae – eagle rays
  • Plesiobatidae – deep-water stingray
  • Potamotrygonidae – river stingrays
  • Urolophidae – stingarees
  • Urotrygonidae – round rays

Some stingrays are being threatened more and more, and some are vulnerable to extinction, thanks in part to the amount of unregulated fishing that is occurring so frequently these days.

Their Venom

Stingrays have spinal blades or stingers that spew out venom when they sense an enemy, and stingrays can have anywhere from one to three blades each. When they secrete the venom, it blasts through the epidermis and mixes with mucous before it is released on the victim. Instead of storing the venom in their glands as other animals do, stingrays keep their venom in their tissue cells. Toxins that spew out include galectin, cystatins, and peroxiredoxins.

In animals, galectin can cause cell death in the victims, while cystatins inhibit the enzymes that the animals need in order to defend themselves. If a human gets attacked with the venom, it increases their blood flow and causes cell and capillary death.

Freshwater stingrays have venom with a greater toxicity than that of marine stingrays, in part because there are more proteins in the cells, and there is a larger area of cells. If you want to avoid being stung by a stingray, you have a few options.

For example, you can shuffle through the water to prevent yourself from accidentally stepping on a stingray because if you step on these animals, they assume that they are being attacked and will fight back. You can also throw a rock in the water to scare the stingray away. If you are accidentally attacked by a stingray, it usually causes extreme pain and swelling, as well as muscle cramps which result from the venom itself.

If you don’t tend to the wound right away, it can eventually cause an infection caused by fungi or bacteria. The stingray’s barb often breaks off in the wound, so you’ll need to check the wound and make sure that no pieces are in there. However, if there are, do NOT attempt to remove them yourself, but wait until a medical professional can do it for you.

Although stingray bites are very rarely fatal, they should still be given proper medical attention as soon as possible. What should you do if you are stung by a stingray? The following steps are highly recommended.

  • Ascertain the seriousness of the wound. Keep in mind that, on the rare occasion when an injury from a stingray occurs, it is normally due not to the ingestion of venom, but by an injury to an internal organ. The latter usually only happens if you are attacked in the chest or stomach region.
  • Make sure that you take note of your symptoms. Whether you’re experiencing headache or weakness, difficulty breathing or dizziness, make sure that you report all of your symptoms to the doctor or other medical personnel.
  • Pay attention to more serious symptoms. If you are experiencing seizures, fainting, swelling of your lips, or wheezing, these are more serious than other standard symptoms, and the doctor needs to know about them. If you faint, your friends need to take you to the hospital as soon as possible.
  • Take care of the wound. Wash out your wounds with salt water, and you can remove items such as sand and pebbles if you are able to. If anything is piercing your neck, chest, or stomach area, leave it alone for the medical experts to tend to. After the wound is washed out, wipe it dry with a clean towel, and concentrate on stopping any bleeding whenever possible. Next, soak the wounds in hot water, and remember to keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as redness or swelling around the wound area.

If there is any doubt as to what you should do when you are stung by a stingray, seek medical attention immediately because it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you try the above actions, and you’re feeling fine, there is likely no need to visit a hospital or clinic. However, should you start to have additional symptoms or start feeling worse, this is exactly what you should do.

Their Behavioral Characteristics

Stingrays are curious and fearless, so if you do come near them they may feel threatened and sting you. By nature, stingrays are aggressive, so unless you know that a particular species of stingrays doesn’t sting, it is best to stay away from them.

However, when they do attack, they are not doing so because they want to consume their prey; they simply want these animals to go away and leave them alone. They will often come close to divers or snorkelers; however, this is not because they are looking for something to harm. They are simply very territorial and don’t like seeing anything out of the ordinary. If they do, they will go there and investigate what is going on, because they want to make sure a human or other animal isn’t where they aren’t supposed to be, namely, in the stingray’s territory.

Reproduction

Stingrays reproduce like humans, through sexual intercourse. For most, this means that the eggs stay inside of the female and she later gives birth to live animals. Females give off a certain scent when they are ready to mate, which is usually during late winter and spring for southern stingrays. There is no placenta, but there is a yolk sac on which the embryos rely to get food. Once the pups are born, they are large enough and intelligent enough to go and hunt for food and protect themselves from predators immediately. Stingrays are ready to mate when they are approximately one year old.

Interesting Facts about Stingrays

A group of stingrays is pictured here as they swim in Komodo National Park.

They Sometimes Give Birth to Twins

In 2008 in Hull, twins were born to a blue-spotted ribbon-tail ray at an aquarium called The Deep. Interestingly, this was the first time this had happened in Europe. And speaking of giving birth, stingrays give birth to two to six babies every year, and each of these can live up to 25 years if you leave them in the wild.

Their Protection Devices Can Differ from Other Stingrays

Stingrays have venomous barbs or spines located in their tail to protect themselves against predators, while skates use thorny nodes located on their tails and backs.

Skates and Stingrays are Different Creatures

Although many people think they’re the same, the truth is that stingrays and skates are two completely different animals. Skates are oviparous, which means they lay their eggs and wait for them to hatch, while stingrays are ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs are hatched inside of a female’s body and they give birth to live young.

Relatives of the Shark

All types of stingrays are related to sharks and belong to a group of fish called the Elasmobranchs.

Boneless Fish

Stingrays are also boneless, and their bodies are made up of flexible cartilage, the same stuff found in the ears and noses of human beings.

They Like to Eat

Stingrays feed mostly on small shrimp, fish, crustaceans, clams, and snails, although they also eat a number of other very small animals under the water.

They are Not Always Liked

Almost all underwater creatures have natural predators, and the stingray’s natural enemies include sea lions, sharks, large fish, and even seals.

They Do Not Get Food As We Do

Instead of using their eyes to search for food, stingrays instead use their electro-sensors to locate their next meal.

Solitary Animals

Most stingrays like to swim alone, but they are also known to gather in large groups, which are then called schools.

Lots of Stingrays All Around

To date, there are more than 70 species of stingrays making up eight separate families. This is a lot more than many people realize. They are also found in nearly every body of water in the world.

Stingrays Get Around

Stingrays can be found in both freshwater and saltwater bodies of water, as well as in waters that are both tropical and subtropical.