Coastal stingaree (Urolophus orarius)

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Coastal stingaree
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Coastal stingaree fact file

Coastal stingaree description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassChondrichthyes
OrderRajiformes
FamilyUrolophidae
GenusUrolophus (1)

The coastal stingaree is a rare endemic of southern Australian waters and is seldom seen in the wild (3). As with most rays, the body of this species is flattened and disc-shaped, with the pectoral fins broadly expanded and fused with the head and trunk. Characteristic of the round ray or stingaree family (Urolophidae), the coastal stingaree possesses a remarkably circular-shaped body disc. Like other rays, this species has a long, relatively narrow tail that is distinctly demarcated from the disc-like body. Most species of stingaree possess one or more long venomous spines about half way down their tail (2). In addition to this defensive poisonous sting, most stingarees have cryptic coloration, which acts as camouflage in the sandy or rocky bottom of their habitat (4). The coastal stingaree is greyish-brown with dark mottling on its upper surface and paler underneath (3).

Size
Disc size: up to 31 cm (2)
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Coastal stingaree biology

Very little is known about the biology of this species (3), but there are certain characteristics known to be typical of stingarees (Urolophidae) which the coastal stingaree is likely to possess. This family of rays only has one litter a year, sometimes one every two years, and usually gives birth to between two and four live young per litter. Since so few young are produced, it is important that they survive. Thus, extended nurturing inside the mother’s body produces large young able to feed and fend for themselves, with no reported evidence of post-birth parental investment. Some stingaree species have a gestation period of around three months, which usually occurs at some point across spring, summer and autumn. Many stingarees feed on bottom-dwelling fishes, worms, shrimp and other small organisms in the substrate around them, with some species able to eat hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans (4).

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Coastal stingaree range

Restricted to the Eastern Indian Ocean in the waters of southern Australia, where the species is known from the Great Australian Bight Marine Park around to the waters of western Victoria (2) (3) (5).

See this species on Google Earth.

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Coastal stingaree habitat

A marine, bottom-dwelling species found in shallow coastal waters, from depths of 20 to 50 m (2) (4).

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Coastal stingaree status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Coastal stingaree threats

Stingarees are rarely targeted by fisheries or sold commercially, but large numbers are caught incidentally as bycatch. Because of their low birth rates, slow reproductive turnover and sometimes restricted range, stingarees are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of over-fishing (4).

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Coastal stingaree conservation

The coastal stingaree occurs in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park (GAB), within which exists a Benthic Protection Zone (BPZ) that affords some degree of protection to this bottom-dwelling species. However, the Park’s mission is not only to maintain current levels of biodiversity, but also to provide ecologically sustainable use of marine resources. As such, a number of fisheries and recreational fishing are still permitted to operate in certain areas, and exploratory drilling for petroleum commenced in 2003 and further exploration activity is anticipated in the future (5). These activities may threaten the coastal stingaree, and there are currently no conservation measures directly targeting the species.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the conservation of sharks and rays see:

 

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Benthic
Living at the lowermost region of a marine habitat, the bottom.
Bycatch
In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (April, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. FishBase (April, 2006)
    http://www.fishbase.org
  3. Scuba Equipment USA - Marine Species Gallery (April, 2006)
    http://www.scuba-equipment-usa.com/marine/JUN04/Coastal_Stingaree(Urolophus_orarius).html
  4. Animal Diversity Web (April, 2006)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Urolophidae.html
  5. McLeay, L.J., Sorokin, S.J., Rogers, P.J. and Ward, T.M. (2003) Benthic Protection Zone of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), South Australia. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mpa/publications/pubs/gab-benthic-protection-review.pdf
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Image credit

Coastal stingaree  
Coastal stingaree

© Dave Harasti/www.daveharasti.com

David Harasti
dave@daveharasti.com
http://www.daveharasti.com

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