Eagle Rays are most commonly found in shallow coastal waters on reefs or in bays down to depths of 80m. Divers can frequently get glimpses of schools of eagle rays on reefs and wall dives swimming past in the blue or over the reef. The rays swim very fast, although they look so relaxed and elegant, so it is pointless in trying to keep up and best to relax and watch as they gracefully swim past. Eagle rays rarely interact with people or divers so will most likely ignore your presence and continue on their path to wherever they are heading.
In shallow locations which are home to eagle rays snorkellers also have the chance to spot these beautiful creatures.
Eagle rays are a type of ray which live in the open ocean rather that ocean bottoms. This can be in tropical of sub tropical regions.
Compared with other rays they have a very long tail and mature rays can reach up to 5m in length and 3m wingspan. The females are ovoviviparous which means they retain the eggs and release baby rays which are perfect miniature versions of themselves.
They feed mainly on molluscs and crustaceans and crush these with their flat teeth. This is different from other open ocean rays such as the devil ray and manta rays which are filter feeders and live on plankton. They are hunted themselves by a wide variety of sharks.
The rays aren’t dangerous to humans and interaction with humans is very rare but they do have poisonous barbs on the end of their tail and also are unknown to jump completely out of the water which has caused a few accidents when they have landed on a boat!
Eagle Rays are classified as Near threatened and are fished mainly in South East Asia and Africa, but are now completely protected on the Great Barrier Reef. Most Eagle Rays are bycatch and not intentionally caught. Another threat to the rays are shark nets as they can get entangled. South Africa are not deploying fewer nets and this has helped with the amount of marine life that now die by entanglement.
They are very popular in the marine life trade as they are a good exhibit for aquariums so are regularly caught for this purpose.
More detailed information about Eagle Rays can be found here.
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