Batoids – Rays of the Ocean

 

Stingray in WaterYou might think that batoids are bats, or very closely related to bats. But you’d be wrong. Batoideae are fish made of cartilage, also known as rays, such as stingrays and mantarays. The closest relative to batoids are sharks and sawfish. These are all what are known as cartilaginous fish: fish who have a tough skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone.

Batoids first begin popping up in the fossil record in the Ordovician period, about 480 million years ago. Rays similar to those who live in the oceans today can be seen all the back to 150 million years ago. It is not currently thought that rays are derived from sharks, but rather that the two evolved side by side from a common ancestor, like how humans didn’t evolve from other apes, but alongside them.

 

Large Ray On Ocean BottomMost rays live near the sea floor in shallow coastal regions, although some have been known to live at depths of nearly 10,000 feet. This is because they eat shallfish or other small fish who live on the sea floor, scooping them up in their mouth, which in underneath their body. Rays can sense the movement, minute as it may be, of other organism through an array of sensors at the front of their bodies which can pick up the other fish’s electrical signals. These sensors are called “Ampullae of Lorenzini”. They rely on these to see what’s beneath them, as a ray’s eyes are on the tops of their bodies, and additionally because many of the areas where they live are dark.

They prefer tropical zones, with only a few exceptions. They are very abundant in tropical regions of the Pacific ocean. Mantarays are the only rays who live in the open ocean, and their diet consists of plankton. While the salty sea water is their natural habitat, rays can survive in some freshwater rivers or estuaries, should they find their way there.

 

Baby Stingray
Baby Stingray

Most rays are solitary and usually can only be found together while migrating, or during breeding season. When they do form groups to migrate, though, these groups of rays can number in the thousands. The name of a group of stringrays is called a fever.

Stingrays can “give birth” in one of two ways, depending on the species. Some species of rays lay their eggs, like birds or lizards, and the baby rays hatch outside. Other species hatch their eggs internally and the babies emerge inside the mother’s body. A stingray will typically have between two to six babies per litter, once a year.

 

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