Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari)

GenusAetobatus (1)
Size'wingspan': up to 3 m (2)
Weightup to 230 kg (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The spotted eagle ray is very distinctive with a flattened body and triangular corners to the wing-like pectoral fins (2). The snout is rounded and pointed at the tip, so that it resembles a bird’s beak. The tail is long and whip-like and bears 2 – 6 spines (3). These eagle rays possess highly attractive colouring; the uppersurface is blackish-blue with many white spots, whilst the underside is white (2).

Although the spotted eagle ray is found throughout the world’s tropical oceans, current research indicates that there are several different forms of this ray that likely constitute a number of distinct species (1) (4).

The spotted eagle ray is found in coastal waters in shallow bays and coral reefs, it has been recorded from a range of depths from 1 – 80 metres (2).

Large groups of spotted eagle rays may be seen outside of the breeding season. These rays swim close to the surface and can occasionally be seen jumping clear out of the water (known as ‘breaching’). Females give birth to around 4 live young (2).

Spotted eagle rays have heavy dental plates which they use to crush their hard-shelled prey (4); they feed predominantly on bivalve shellfish (2).

Little data is available on spotted eagle ray populations. However, this species is accidentally caught as bycatch in non-target fisheries over much of its range (1).

Further research into population densities and distribution is needed before the precise threats to this species can be assessed and the appropriate conservation action adopted (1).

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)