Rays

Rays are more than 500 species of flattened fish that are closely related to sharks. Rays and sharks have skeletons made of cartilage (like in your nose and ears) instead of bone and breathe through five or six gill slits.

Rays slowly swim above the seafloor, searching for clams, crabs, shrimps, squid, and fishes hidden in the sand. They use suction to pull prey into their mouths and then crush through any hard shells with rows of flattened teeth.

Although rays are generally peaceful animals, they can sting if threatened. When an unwary swimmer steps on a ray buried in the sand, the stingray defensively reacts by stabbing with the sharp, serrated spine at the base of its tail. The spine delivers painful venom. If stung, a swimmer can lessen the pain by soaking the wounded area in extremely hot water. At the shore, swimmers can avoid being stung by shuffling their feet while wading in shallow water. Stingrays sense the vibrations of this movement and calmly swim away.

There are many great spots to view rays at SeaWorld. You can see over three hundred of them in the Manta Aquarium and even feel like one yourself by taking a ride on Manta®.

You can also spot them in the Shark Encounter or take your turn feeding them at the Stingray Lagoon. Wherever you turn, there is sure to be a ray nearby!

Q: What are stingrays related to?
SW: Stingrays are related to electric rays, skates, guitarfish, sawfish and sharks. These fantastic fish species have a skeleton of soft cartilage instead of hard bone (you have cartilage in your nose, by the way, but the rest of your skeleton is made up of hard bones).

Q: How do they reproduce?
SW: Many of the rays at SeaWorld were born at the parks. Rays give live birth to their young. Their close cousins, the skates, look very similar to rays but they lay eggs instead. 

Q: What do they eat?
SW: Rays primarily feed on things with hard shells on their bodies (like crabs, shrimps and urchins) plus worms and occasionally small fish. Like a nutcracker, rays usually crush their prey between their blunt, flat teeth.

Q: How big do they get?
SW: Some species are only about the size of a dinner plate, but others can get much larger. If you include its tail, a spotted eagle ray can reach a whopping weight of about 500 lb. (230 kg) and a length up to 8 ft. (2.4 m ). But that's nothing compared to the grand-daddy of all them all — the manta ray. Manta rays can have a wingspan of up to 25 ft. (7.5 m) and weigh up to 3,000 lb. (1,360 kg)! 

Q: Are they endangered?
SW: No one really knows — it's impossible to count how many rays are in the ocean to understand if their populations are going up or down. They do face many threats, including pollution, habitat destruction and overfishing of them and the foods they like to eat.