Eagle rays (the Myliobatidae family of fish) are a family of mostly large rays living in the open ocean rather than at the bottom of the sea. Eagle rays feed on snails, mussels and crustaceans, crushing their shells with their extremely hard teeth. They are excellent swimmers and are able to jump several metres above the surface.
The taxonomy of this group is uncertain; it is placed either in the order Myliobatiformes or Rajiformes. There are eight genera belonging to the eagle rays: Myliobatis (common eagle rays), Rhinoptera (cownose rays), Pteromylaeus (bull rays), Aetobatus (bonnet rays), Aetomylaeus (smooth tail eagle rays), Californica (bat rays), Mobula (devil rays), and Manta (manta rays). (In some taxonomies the devil rays and manta rays are placed their own family, Mobulidae.)
The spotted eagle ray
, Aetobatus narinari
, also known as the bonnet ray or maylan, belongs to this genus. It is a very beautiful ray, bearing numerous white spots on its inky blue body. It has a span width of 2.5 m (8 ft) and a maximum reported weight of 230 kg. Including the tail, it can reach up to 5 m (16 ft) in length. The spotted eagle ray is distributed in the tropical areas of all oceans, including the Caribbean Sea
and the Gulf of Mexico
The genus also includes the much smaller longheaded eagle ray
, Aetobatus flagellum
, which is a widespread but uncommon species of Indian Ocean
and western Pacific
coasts. This is considered an endangered species due to huge pressure from fisheries
throughout its range.
Smooth tail eagle rays (Aetomylaeus)
This obscure genus is distributed in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. These rays were named because they lack a sting on the tail. Species include the banded eagle ray, Aetomylaeus nichofii, mottled eagle ray, Aetomylaeus maculatus, and ornate eagle ray, Aetomylaeus vespertilio.
Manta rays (Manta)
The manta rays are the largest members of the ray family, ranging up to 6.7 m (22 ft) from wing tip to wing tip and weighing up to 1,350 kg (3,000 lb). They inhabit the tropical seas of the world and are often observed around coral reefs.
The common eagle ray
, Myliobatis aquila
, is distributed throughout the Eastern Atlantic
, including the Mediterranean Sea
and the North Sea
. Another important species is the bat eagle ray
, Myliobatis californica
, in the Pacific Ocean
These rays can grow extremely large, up to 180 cm including the tail. The tail looks like a whip and may be as long as the body. It is armed with a sting. Eagle rays live close to the coast in depths of 1 to 30 m and in exceptional cases they are found as deep as 300 m. The eagle ray is most commonly seen cruising along sandy beaches in very shallow waters, its two wings sometimes breaking the surface and giving the impression of two sharks traveling together.
- For other species that go under the same name, see Bull ray (disambiguation).
The bull ray
, Pteromylaeus bovinus
, is also named for the shape of its head. It is a very large ray, often 180 cm and sometimes up to 230 cm in length. This ray can be found along Atlantic coasts between Portugal
and South Africa
. It is also distributed throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Another species in this genus, the rough eagle ray
, Pteromylaeus asperrimus
, is just 80 cm in length and lives around the Galapagos
are named for their ungainly, odd-looking heads. Apart from that they look very much like the above genus. Their whip-like tail is armed with one or more stings. Species include the Javanese cownose ray
, Rhinoptera javanica
, in the Indian Ocean
and the western Pacific, the Australian cownose ray
, Rhinoptera neglecta
, around the Australian
coasts and a species which inhabits the Chesapeake Bay, Rhinoptera bonasus
Also known as Banjo Rays, fiddler rays can be separated into two species: The Eastern Fiddler Ray and the Southern Fiddler Ray. Both are found on the South and East coasts of Australia.
Devil rays (Mobula)
Separate genus of rays. They are similar in appearance to manta rays.