The Cownose Ray is an interesting species of an eagle ray, which is a name that creates a unique mental image. They are also one of the smallest types of ray.
Their population has sadly been greatly reduced in some areas but thankfully, the numbers of this magnificent ocean creature appear to be stable overall. For this reason, the IUCN considers them a Species of Least Concern.
The Cownose Ray is famous for its extensive migrations within their endemic range. They also tend to migrate and live in huge numbers which may sometimes number as many as 10,000 individuals. This behavior is uncommon among creatures of their type, making it difficult to imagine one of these herds during their migration.
Cownose Ray Physical Description
Though the Cownose Ray is indeed one of the smaller ray species in Nature, this in no way detracts from their uniqueness.
This type of ray also displays sexual dimorphism in regards to size. The male attains a typical width of about 35 in (89 cm), and a usual weight of 26 lb (12 kg). However, the female is smaller and averages about 28 in (71 cm) in length and 36 lb (16 kg) in weight, so they are smaller but heavier.
Their coloring is typical brownish on the back and whitish on the belly.
They possess a stinger on the end of their tail and toxic teeth on their spine. The venom on the spine is mild, like a bee sting but the venom in the tail is quite painful, even if not typically dangerous.
Cownose Ray Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The Cownose Ray inhabits a range that includes the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. Consequently, they may be seen from the coastal waters of New England, in the United States, to Brazil.
They will sometimes inhabit the shallow brackish waters where a river empties into the ocean and is rarely seen at depths greater than 72 ft (22 m).
They primarily feed on a variety of invertebrates: clams and oysters.
Breeding occurs between June and October. The young are born alive, following an 11-12 month gestation period.
Their average lifespan is approximately 16 years.
Whether their migrations are due to feeding or mating patterns is still a mystery to scientists. Mother Nature surprises us every day.