• Sea life: Giant short tailed sting ray

    • 30 October 2010
    • Published by

    This morning Tony had students at Long Beach and I tagged along. We swam out for depth, and in about 7.5 metres of water – brittlestar country – we found this absolute beauty resting on the sand. Can you see what it is?

    Giant short tailed sting ray

    Giant short tailed sting ray

    Tony and Kate have seen two rays so far this week – one in the wreckage on the Clan Stuart, and another near the yellow buoy at Long Beach. This one was further north, in fairly deep water. It let me film it for a while, and then got annoyed at my heavy (somewhat excited) breathing and left.

    Giant short tailed sting ray

    Too big to get all in one picture!

    We generally see the rays starting in late October to early November – basking in the sand at Long Beach, and even hanging about in the shallow water near the slipway at Miller’s Point. It’s a fantastic experience to spot one.

    Spiny tail
    Spiny tail

    According to Georgina’s book, these rays give birth to live young, about 40 centimetres across, and grow to about 2 metres across. The specimen we saw was at least 1.5 metres across. The young are born folded up like crepes, and unfold their wings as they enter the water. Short tail sting rays are thought to feed on sand-dwelling invertebrates, grinding up shells to get at the creatures inside. It must take a LOT of eating to keep a body that size going!

    Raymond the ray

    Raymond the ray

    When our ray left, he stirred up a huge cloud of sand and then swam so low over Kate’s head that she had to lift her hand up to fend him off. I guess we can add rays to the list of creatures who don’t give way to divers!

    The Two Oceans Aquarium housed a gorgeous giant short tailed sting ray called Olive, who passed away recently. She was magnificent, and loved to swim up the glass in the I&J Predator Exhibit where she was housed.

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