Meet the Cownose Ray

One of the stars of the Aquarium's new exhibit, The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank, is the cownose ray. Unlike other species of rays, cownose rays spend most of their time swimming near the surface of the water, so they are a perfect fit for our shark and ray touch tank! The touch tank opens April 15 (with previews for members only from April 4 through April 11). When you visit, you'll find many of the cownose rays schooling gracefully along the surface. Check out this video:

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about these rays.

Do cownose rays sting?
Cownose rays, like other stingrays, have a stinging barb on their tail that they use to protect themselves if they are threatened by other animals. It is very unlikely for a person to be stung by a cownose ray since they don't spend much time on the sea floor. Most people get stung by accidently stepping on rays that are hidden in the sand. Although rays are not aggressive, all the rays in the touch tank and in our Giant Ocean Tank have had their spines clipped back as an added precaution.

What do cownose rays like to eat?
Rays have multiple rows of flattened teeth to help crush things (kind of like a nutcracker), such as shells of clams, mollusks, and crabs. They also eat shrimp, bony fish and other bottom-dwelling organisms.

Where do cownose rays live?
Cownose rays are migratory and can swim great distances. Tens of thousands of cownose rays can be found schooling in large groups in warm temperate and tropical waters along the western Atlantic coast, between southern New England and South America. They are especially abundant in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months.

Do cownose rays lay eggs?
Rays are ovoviviparous, which means that the egg develops inside the female and remains there until it is ready to hatch. After a gestation period of about 11 to 12 months, a single pup comes out tail first with its wings folded over like a crĂªpe. Cownose rays generally begin reproducing at the age of 7.

Are cownose rays endangered?
The cownose ray is listed on a global scale as “near threatened.” In U.S. waters, cownose rays are not directly targeted by fisheries and their population appears to be thriving. In the Central and South American parts of this species’ range, however, the cownose ray is more at risk due to intense and generally unregulated fishery activities.

1 comment:

  1. Cownose rays are actually being actively promoted as a new, “sustainable” seafood in the US, particularly in Virginia. A campaign called “Eat a Ray, Save the Bay” plays upon disputed claims that this species is preying dangerously on oysters and encourages consumers to help reduce this “nuisance” population. As a result, cownose rays are showing up on menus along the east coast and were on offer at last month’s Boston Seafood Show. Currently, there are no cownose ray fishing limits or estimates on safe catch levels. This new exhibit promises to improve public appreciation of this increasingly maligned species, a helpful component in building truly sustainable fisheries.