Common Names: Southern
Rhomboid disc. Deep ventral tail finfold. Row of tubercles
running from base of head to partway along tail. Two much shorter rows of
tubercles visible behind eyes. One or two stinging spines present on base of
tail. Dorsal surface uniform brown to gray often darkening slightly near margin
of disc. Ventral surface white.
Maximum disc width 1.5m.
Intertidal to 25m. Inhabits sandy areas and reefs.
Common in Florida and Northern Caribbean waters. Sightings
less frequent in its broader range.
Florida and Caribbean, also north to New Jersey and south
Often seen by divers sleeping or cruising over sand patches
near reefs, stopping occasionally to dig for animals in the sand. Eats a variety
of small fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Lies at rest covered by sand with just
eyes protruding. If stepped on by a diver or attacked by its natural predator
the hammerhead shark, it will sting over its head like a scorpion.
These stingrays are easily conditioned to accept the
presence of hundreds of humans. At Stingray Sandbar on Grand Cayman, I observed
the daily feeding ritual where large boats bring hoards of tourists to swim and
snorkel with the rays. There is one unsubstantiated report from 2001 in which a
large hammerhead ventured into this busy scene and plucked a stingray out from
amongst the screaming tourists.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Caribbean stingray (Himantura schmardae) shares
much of its
Caribbean range with the Southern stingray but is easily distinguished by its
more oval disc and lack of fin-folds on its tail.
Reaction to divers:
Remain motionless or continues to forage unless closely
The southern stingray is such a commonly sighted species near reefs
that it is unnecessary to describe specific opportunities to locate it. However Stingray City in Grand Cayman probably has the greatest
opportunities for any diver to interact with and photograph Southern Stingrays.
Whilst working on the island as a submersible pilot I was lucky enough to have
access to this site on numerous occasions. Upon entering the water here, and at
the shallower Stingray Sandbar (for snorkellers), the diver is immediately
surrounded by silky skinned rays that rub past you nuzzling with their mouths in
search of a handout.