Dasyatis brevicaudataGiant black ray(Also: Giant stingray; New Zealand short-tail stingaree; Schreiners ray; Short-tail stingray)

Geographic Range

Short-tail stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) are found in the Indian Ocean, off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. Along the African coast, these stingrays are limited to south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Their breeding grounds and nurseries are concentrated on the northwestern side of Poor Knights Island, New Zealand. (Bester, 2018; Branco-Nunes, et al., 2016; Bray, 2018; "Ecological characterization of the lower Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys", 1982; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Lockett and Hoese, 2018)

Habitat

Short-tail stingrays are bottom-dwellers in temperate waters. They are found on the seafloor in harbors, coastal bays, large inlets, and coastal reefs. Away from the coasts, they have typically been found at depths around 150 m, and as deep as 476 m. Sometimes they are found in underwater caves and under large overhangs.

Research of gene flow in short-tail stingrays revealed that they do not migrate long distances; environmental effects limit mobility for mating and nursing. (Bester, 2018; Bray, 2018; "Ecological characterization of the lower Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys", 1982; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Lockett and Hoese, 2018)

  • Other Habitat Features
  • caves
  • Range depth
    0 to 476 m
    0.00 to 1561.68 ft
  • Average depth
    150 m
    492.13 ft

Physical Description

Short-tail stingrays are grey on their dorsal sides and white on their ventral sides. Their bodies are similar to an oblong disc or a blunt diamond shape. There is a lack of detailed physical measurements comparing male and female short-tail stingrays. Reports state that male short-tail stingrays can weigh up to 350 kg; females can measure up to 109 cm and weigh up to 45.34 kg. These stingrays are the largest rays in the world, with males measuring up to 4.3 m long and 3 m wide.

Offspring are about 36 cm disc width at birth. Le Port et al. (2012) report juveniles with a disc width range of 1.0 to 1.5 m. Their bodies are smooth, except for their tails, which are skinny and serrated. Their tails average 22 cm long, with a thick base that narrows out. Their tails are venomous. They can have multiple venomous tails, but there is always one main tail that can grow up to 30 cm. Short-tail stingrays have tails made of cartilage. The venom that these tails contain is a neurotoxin that consists of phosphodiesterases, 5’ nucleotidases, serotonin and other proteins.

The eyes of short-tail stingrays are small and medial lateral to each other. They have oval-shaped nostrils on their anterior sides, about 13 cm from the ventral view to the mouth. The ratio of rods to cones in their retina is 10:1, indicating that short-tail stingrays are diurnal. However, the low amount of cones suggests a preference for nocturnal activity.

Short-tail stingrays have 10 gill slits, which are positioned in diagonal lines and form an incomplete "V" shape. The gill slits closest to their mouths are the most distal. They also have other forms of respiratory holes, known as spiracles, located behind and adjacent to their eyes. There are usually 25 series of teeth and about 45 to 50 rows of teeth across their jaw lines. (Adams, 2007; Braekevelt, 1995; Branco-Nunes, et al., 2016; Bray, 2018; Dodrill and Richardson, 1981; Garrick, 1954; Gilliam and Sullivan, 1993; Hart, et al., 2006; Last, et al., 2010; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Maruska and Tricas, 1998; Summers, 2000; Yeldan and Manasirh, 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    350 (high) kg
    770.93 (high) lb
  • Range length
    1.09 to 4.3 m
    3.58 to 14.11 ft

Development

Short-tail stingrays are ovoviviparous, which means offspring start out as eggs, hatch inside the bodies of their mothers, and are born live. Newborns stay within the area of seafloor in which they were born and will being to migrate as they age and grow larger.

There is limited birthing information on short-tail stingrays, but there is information on closely-related round stingrays (Urobatis halleri). Once pups are born, they will travel to the sea floor and remain within 180 m from land. When the offspring are old enough (when their body growth as ceased), they will start traveling farther out, where other adults are, and search for larger prey items. Short-tail stingray offspring are about 36 cm disc width at birth. Juveniles with disc widths of 1.0 to 1.5 m have been reported. The rate of growth is not published, but they are suspected to exhibit indeterminate growth (similar to all cartilaginous fish). (Babel, 1967; Bester, 2018; Bray, 2018; Dodrill and Richardson, 1981; Garrick, 1954; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Lim, et al., 2015; Lockett and Hoese, 2018; Vaughan and Chisholm, 2010)

Reproduction

Leport et al. (2012) established that temperature and daylight are triggers to short-tail stingray reproduction cycles and, if those are altered, then reproduction is lacking. While mating, male short-tail stingrays will swim upside down, underneath females, and will bite the discs of females. Then male stingrays insert their claspers into the cloacae of females, and also nudge their abdomens.

Female short-tail stingrays are suspected to have a similar mating system as other related stingrays. Southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana) will mate with several males (polyandrous), one at a time. Males swim posterior to a single female in a cluster. A male will then grab onto the pectoral disc of the female (the whole body) and the male will copulate by inserting his clasper into her cloaca. The claspers leave scars on the underside of the female stingray. (Baker, et al., 2006; Chapman, et al., 2003; Dodrill and Richardson, 1981; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Oldfield, 2005)

There is little information for short-tail stingrays, but they may be comparable to closely-related rough-tail stingrays (Dasyatis centroua), black stingrays (Dasyatis thetidis), and southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana). These related stingrays have similar physiological features as well as reproductive features. The gestational period for these relatives has not been determined, but frequent mating occurrences and frequent births are documented. Breeding months span from late spring to autumn (approximately May to August). The number of offspring for rough-tail stingrays is typically 6 to 10 offspring (12 at most).

Due to the difficulty of determining age in living stingrays, disc width is used instead of age. Therefore, age of first reproduction is unreported.

Short-tail stingrays are lipid histotrophs, meaning mothers produce uterine milk for their offspring. Short-tail stingray offspring are born at about 36 cm disc width at birth. There is no parental care after birth, and offspring are immediately independent. (Baker, et al., 2006; Dodrill and Richardson, 1981; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Oldfield, 2005)

  • Average time to independence
    0 minutes

There is no recorded evidence of parental investment in short-tail stingrays. Offspring are born either inshore or offshore, on the outer shelf and uppermost slope; offspring travel straight to the sea floor. Sometimes they are birthed in caves, but the offspring can be found in sandy bays, estuaries, harbors, or at rocky reefs for protection and food. Females provide no further care for their young beyond pre-hatching sustenance. Males provide no parental investment beyond the act of mating. (Babel, 1967; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Oldfield, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The expected life span for short-tail stingrays in captivity is 70 to 80 years, while short-tail stingrays have a life span of 15 to 25 years in the wild. The oldest short-tail stingray has been recorded to be 30 years of age in the wild. (Adams, 2007; Baker, et al., 2006; Basusta and Sulikowaski, 2012)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    15 to 25 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    70 to 80 years

Behavior

Short-tail stingrays are natatorial and diurnal. However, their rod-to-cone ratio suggests that they may be active nocturnally as well. They tend to stay in certain coastal areas near where they are born, but have been frequently found to migrate to other coasts within temperate waters. Short-tail stingrays are defensive by nature and harmless unless they feel threatened. They can defensively sting with their venomous tail or tails. (Chapman, et al., 2003; "Ecological characterization of the lower Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys", 1982; Lockett and Hoese, 2018)

Home Range

Short-tail stingrays have no specific home range and do not defend a territory. (Baker, et al., 2006; Bester, 2018; Branco-Nunes, et al., 2016; Bray, 2018; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Lockett and Hoese, 2018; van der Westhuizen and van der Westhuizen, 2016)

Communication and Perception

Short-tail stingrays have pores and canals, or lateral lines, that consist of mechanoreceptors that have a mechano-tactile function. These are located on the ventral sides of this elasmobranch species. These lateral lines deal with vibrations mainly for predation, but they are also capable of conducting electricity for communication, defense, and detecting partners. They also use these mechanoreceptors to detect water movement around them. It has been discovered in elasmobranch species that lateral lines are for detecting other organisms, either to catch prey or avoid predators. For short-tail stingrays there have been discoveries that the nonporous ventral sides of their bodies are 2 to 10 times more sensitive to physical contact compared to vibrations or noncontact pressure.

When mating, males and females interact via tactile communications. Male claspers are involved in internal reproduction.

Short-tail stingrays have small eyes. The ratio of rods to cones is 10:1 in their retina, indicating that short-tail stingrays are diurnal. However, the low amount of cones suggests a preference for nocturnal activity. (Carrier, et al., 2012; Garrick, 1954; Hart, et al., 2006; Jordan, et al., 2009; Maruska and Tricas, 1998; Musick and Ellis, 2005; Oldfield, 2005; Ramsden, et al., 2017; Schieber, et al., 2012; Yopak, 2012)

Food Habits

Short-tail stingrays consume various types of crustaceans, cephalopods, arthropods, and small fish (bony and non-bony). They also eat smaller cnidarians and sometimes they consume plants. (Garrick, 1954; Gilliam and Sullivan, 1993; Le Port, et al., 2012; Rizzari, et al., 2017; Yeldan and Manasirh, 2009)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • cnidarians
  • other marine invertebrates

Predation

Humans (Homo sapiens) catch short-tail stingrays for food. They are considered a prize by commercial fisheries. Other animals that prey on short-tail stingrays include sharks and killer whales (Orcinus orca). Stingrays, in general, use lateral lines to detect water movement and avoid predation. Short-tail stingrays also use cryptic camouflage in order to eat or avoid being eaten. (Baker, et al., 2006; Carrier, et al., 2012; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Vaughan and Chisholm, 2010; Visser, 2005)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Short-tail stingrays prey on crustaceans, cephalopods, cnidarians, arthropods, and small fish. Sharks, killer whales (Orcinus orca), and humans are known predators of short-tail stingrays.

Common parasites that have been found to associate themselves with short-tail stingrays include monogeneans (Heterocotyle tokoloshei and Dendromonocotyle tsutsumii) and tapeworms (Acanthobothrium adlardi, Dollfusiella ocallaghani, Eutetrarhynchus ocallaghani, Prochristianella mooreae, Pterobothrium lintoni, Pterobothrium platycephalum, Rhinebothrium dasyatidis, and Trimacracanthus aetobatidis). The only isopod parasites known thus far are of the genus Gnathia. (Chishom, et al., 2004; "Ecological characterization of the lower Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys", 1982; Last, et al., 2010; Le Port, et al., 2012; Rizzari, et al., 2017; Vaughan and Chisholm, 2010; Visser, 2005)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • monogenean Dendromonocotyle tsutsumii
  • monogenean Heterocotyle tokoloshei
  • tapeworm Acanthobothrium adlardi
  • tapeworm Dollfusiella ocallaghani
  • tapeworm Eutetrarhynchus ocallaghani
  • tapeworm Prochristianella mooreae
  • tapeworm Pterobothrium lintoni
  • tapeworm Pterobothrium platycephalum
  • tapeworm Rhinebothrium dasyatidis
  • tapeworm Trimacracanthus aetobatidis
  • isopoda Gnathia

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Short-tail stingrays usually do not attack people, so they are often visited by people generating tourism. There is a market for short-tail stingrays in the food industry. (Butcher, et al., 2015; Rizzari, et al., 2017)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Short-tail stingrays have venomous tails that can be lethal to humans, but they only sting as a defensive measure. Their stingers are made of cartilage and are shaped like a tapered whip with doubly-serrated sides. These tails can reach up to 30 cm in length. The venom consists mainly of neurotoxins (phosphodiesterases, 5’ nucleotidases, serotonin) and other proteins. Symptoms of the venom include weakness, severe pain, necrosis, nausea, headaches, hypotension, fasciculation, dysrhythmia, and vertigo (because of the neurotoxins). The respiratory and circulatory systems are at the biggest risk when this venom enters the body. Common measures for treating a stingray victim are use of opioids for pain relief and then surgery. A hot water bath, saline solution, and surgical removal of fragments from the stinger are usual steps for patients. Using heat reduces toxin potency. (Adams, 2007; Garrick, 1954)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Short-tail stingrays are listed as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. They have no special status on the US Federal List, State of Michigan list, and CITES. In 1994, short-tail stingrays were of concern, but not endangerment, due to overfishing. Some issues were the time periods of sexual maturity and the fertility of short-tail stingrays. Leport et al. (2012) found that temperature and daylight are triggers to the reproduction cycle of short-tail stingrays; if those are altered, then reproduction gets delayed. Rizzari et al. (2017) found a negative correlation between boat activity and short-tail stingray health. Boats are capable of harming short-tail stingrays and people on boats sometimes fish for stingrays for food. Main threats to short-tail stingrays are predators, like sharks and killer whales (Orcinus orca), and commercial fishing.

Legal regulations exist along the coast of Poor Knights Island (New Zealand) and parts of Australia in order to control human tourism and short-tail stingray harvesting. Attempts have been made to save the species by means of captive breeding at aquatic centers in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; however, it has been difficult for them to reproduce and not kill their mates. Le Port et al. (2012) suggest that protecting and encouraging breeding and nursery grounds would be an act of conserving short-tail stingrays. (Butcher, et al., 2015; "Ecological characterization of the lower Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys", 1982; Last, et al., 2010; Le Port and Lavery, 2011; Le Port, et al., 2012; Rizzari, et al., 2017)

Other Comments

Short-tail stingrays are the species of stingray responsible for killing Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter") while filming in 2006. (Hadhazy, 2006)

Contributors

Robert Krebs (author), Radford University, Lauren Burroughs (editor), Radford University, Layne DiBuono (editor), Radford University, Lindsey Lee (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

benthic

Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

electric

uses electric signals to communicate

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

indeterminate growth

Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

molluscivore

eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

ovoviviparous

reproduction in which eggs develop within the maternal body without additional nourishment from the parent and hatch within the parent or immediately after laying.

pelagic

An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).

piscivore

an animal that mainly eats fish

reef

structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

venomous

an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

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