Sea Creature of the Week!

Dec 05 2011

Golden Cownose Ray

Scientific name: Rhinoptera steindachneri

Other names: Hawk rays, Pacific Cownose ray

Family: Rhinopteridae

Home: The Pacific Cownose ray can be seen swimming in the open shallow waters of the eastern Pacific ocean. Subtidal aquatic beds, coral or rocky reefs, estuaries, intertidal marshes and coastal (saline) lagoons are also preferred hang out spots of the Hawk ray.

Characteristics: This marine animal’s protruding high-domed head is distinctly shaped like a cownose (hence its name). It can reach about 3 feet in width and can weigh as much as 20 pounds. Its dorsal (upper) skin is a golden-brown while its ventral side (underside) is a creamy white. The razor sharp venomous stinger(s), which grow at the base of this ray ‘s black whip-like tail, can reach up to 15 inches in length.

Food: This marine creature primarily munches on benthic crustaceans and mollusks such as clams, oysters and crabs. Some scientists have come to the conclusion that their fins are sensitive to the bioelectric signals emitted by potential prey; ultimately helping them in their quest for dinner. Often they  must dig up their food by rapidly flapping their fins to displace sand and sucking sediment through the mouth and releasing it from their gills. Their jaws contain flat tooth plates which are used to grind their hard shelled prey.

Golden cownose ray migration

Fun Facts:

• Unlike most other Stingrays the Cownose ray rarely lies on the seabed and prefers to be on the go!
• The hawkray migrates in large schools (around 10,000 strong) twice a year. They head to warmer southern waters in late autumn and cooler northern waters in late spring!
• Their relatively slow rate of reproduction combined with irresponsible fishing practices, particularly bottom trawling (for shrimp), has put the Cownose population in danger! #NotSoFunFact

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