VISIT THE RAYS
In the wild, stingrays spend most of their lives buried in the sand out of view of predators and divers. At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies they relish the spotlight! There are many rays in Stingray Bay and some will even eat out of the hands of our divers.
At the shallow end of the tank, you can touch Ripley’s ray and get up close with one of these beautiful creatures.
Native to the Atlantic Ocean, the cownose ray is a schooling ray that can be found in large groups of thousands at a time.
These rays are golden or tan in color and can reach lengths of four feet in wingspan and grow up to 36 pounds. They are bottom feeders and use the flaps surrounding their mouths to dig through the sand to locate buried prey such as clams, mussels, and oysters.
Swimmers often mistake their pectoral fins as shark fins when they break the surface of the water.
Spotted Eagle Ray
The spotted eagle ray can be easily identified by its unique rounded snout and white polka-dotted dark purple colored back. They can reach a length of 16 feet and a wingspan of ten feet when fully grown.
Their grinding plates are used to grind up shrimp, crabs, squid, and small fish. They are schooling rays, and in off mating seasons, can be found in large groups worldwide in tropical and temperate waters.
These rays are a Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Like all stingrays, they have anywhere from one to six venomous spines with serrated barbs located along the base of the tail. These barbs are only used as a means of passive defense.
Southern stingrays often visit cleaning stations where bluehead wrasses and Spanish hogfish will eat the parasites and mucus from the stingray’s bodies.
These rays can grow to over six feet in length and can be found along the west coast of the Atlantic Ocean. They prefer shallow coastal waters and typically hide under the sand.