Hiding on the ocean floor is one of the globe’s fiercest predators - the stingray. The boneless, carnivorous creature hunts, escapes and fights all while tucked under the sand at the bottom of the ocean. Let’s take a closer look at this fierce predator:
Stingrays are carnivorous and like to eat animals smaller than themselves, typically ones that live on or beneath the sand like worms, clams, oysters, snails and shrimp. Small fish and squid are also on the menu.
Their flattened body shape allows them to nestle into the ocean floor where they can toss sand on top of themselves for camouflage and protection from predators. Their mouths are located under their body, so when they skim the ocean floor, it’s easier to eat worms, shrimp and clams.
In order to crush the shells of crabs, clams, sea snails and other mollusks, stingrays need to have a powerful bite. Stingrays have no bones, but their jaws are nonetheless powerful. They are several layers thick with hollow struts supporting the softer cartilage cores. This makes their jaws both strong and flexible.
While their mouths are located under their bodies, stingrays’ eyes are located on top of their bodies. This leaves stingrays vulnerable to anything that might be underneath them. However, what their eyes can’t see, they make up for with a complex sensory system called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. This system helps them pick up electrical signals released by their prey, wherever they may be swimming or crawling in the sand.
Most species of stingrays are equipped with a long, whip-like tail. The creatures only “sting” when they feel threatened. Animals known to feed on stingrays are sharks, elephant seals and killer whales. Aside from their tails, stingrays best defense is its flat body, which allows them to hide in the sand on the ocean floor.
To learn more about stingrays, check out the Stingray Lagoon at SeaWorld Orlando.