In many ways, the pygmy devilray resembles its larger and more iconic relative, the manta ray (3). Large pectoral fins, fused to the sides of its head, form a diamond shaped wing-like disc, which it gracefully strokes up and down to move efficiently through the water column (3)(4)(5). From above, its body is broadly brownish-grey, but underneath it is mostly white (6). Extending forward from either side of its head are two prominent lobes that funnel plankton into the mouth on the underside of its head (4)(5). The eyes are positioned on the side of the head and the broad gill openings are situated underneath the front half of the pectoral fins (5). A thin, spineless tail projects from the rear of its flattened body (3)(5).
Very little is known about the biology of the pygmy devilray but mating is known to take place in shallow water, with each litter usually comprising just one offspring (1). In a form of reproduction known as ovoviviparity, the embryo develops in a membranous egg within the mother. After hatching, it remains in the mother and continues to be nourished by the yolk sac until it is ready to emerge. Like other mobulid species, adult and juvenile pygmy devilrays feed on plankton and small fish (1)(5).
The pygmy devilray is found in tropical coastal waters of the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific Ocean, from South Africa north to the Red Sea and eastwards as far as Vietnam, New Guinea and northern Australia. It has not been recorded from oceanic islands (1)(2).
Although only marketed in Thailand, and possibly other parts of southeast Asia, the pygmy devilray is caught as bycatch in several fisheries in other parts of its range (1)(2). As this species is likely to have a low reproductive output, there are concerns that fishing pressure could be having a signifincat impact on the stability of its global population (1).
Bonfil, R. and and Abdallah, M. (2004) Field identification guide to the sharks and rays of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. FAO, Rome.
Daley, R.K., Stevens, J.D., Last, P.R. and Yearsley, G.K. (2002) Field guide to Australian sharks and rays. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.
Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Carpenter, K.E. and Niem, V.H. (1999) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of theWestern Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome.
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