Stingray Eye ©Melinda Riger @GBS


The SOUTHERN STINGRAY Dasyatis americana is a ‘whiptail stingray’ found in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Their habitat and personal habits – feeding and mating – are similar to those of the YELLOW STINGRAY. They live on the seabed, where they feed on small crustaceans, molluscs and fish. They expose their prey by flapping their ‘wings’ (= pectoral fins) to disturb the sand

Southern Stingray ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

You want to avoid treading on one of these if possible. Their tails have a serrated barb covered in venomous mucous, used for self-defence. These spines are not fatal to humans, but if you step on one it may be an experience in extreme pain to tell your grandchildren about. Southern Stingray

Luckily they are likely to see you long before you notice them, and to swim away from your approachSouthern Stingray ©Melinda Riga @ GB Scuba


Surprisingly, the ‘at risk’ status of the Southern Stingray is not known. However, as with other marine species that humans like to befriend in the wild for the perceived benefit of both parties, there are parts of the Caribbean where stingray swims involve rather more than merely swimming with and enjoying the rays in their own environment. There is organised hand-feeding with cut-up fish, even general fondling and cuddling, that can make these wild creatures seem ‘tame’. There is growing concern that such close dependent interactions with humans is not a good thing, at least for the stingrays. 

A diver admiring a ray while keeping a respectful distanceSouthern Stingray 2

If you watch out for them… they’ll keep an eye out for youSouthern Stingray copy

Credits: Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba; Wiki for thumbs /  material; selected online trawlings

My incompetent first ever underwater video at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve, Abaco. I hadn’t snorkelled for X decades, and frankly had some breathing-and-swimming-simultaneously issues, let alone trying to hold a tiny camera steady. Still, here it is (with a proper diver’s video below)
                                            Dasyatis americana .jpg

Music credit on my vid to the fairly litigious Joe Satriani – see JS v Coldplay ‘If I could Fly’ / ‘Viva La Vida’ plagiarism case (settled, to no one’s great advantage). Hey, Joe, what you doin’ with that writ in your hand? For anyone the slightest bit interested in the alleged similarities, here is a mash-up reward for reading about stingrays. Or penalty.


 has published an article entitled “15 cute animals that will cause you horrible harm”. For some of these, the word “cute” may be overstating the case. For others, the risks to humans appear to be very remote. A few are nominated despite being the most surprising and least likely harm-bringers (“KITTENS” – don’t ask).

What is undeniable is that 5 of the 15 may be encountered on or close to Abaco… Fortunately staying on dry land is a sure way to avoid them all – they all live underwater. With due credit to BRAINZ here are the Fearsome Five with his trenchant commentary, except for the last which I have censored for present purposes owing to its graphic adult content and anti-cetacean tendencies… 

1. PUFFER FISH “Puffer fish are hilarious and adorable just on general principle. It’s hard see one inflated, and refrain from uncontrollable giggling at it’s cartoonish defense mechanism. But puffer fish don’t just rely on their inflatable belly as a way of dissuading predators, they’re also packed with the deadly neurotoxin tetrodotoxin. Of course, they’re renowned as a delicacy just for this reason. Apparently, when prepared correctly, the minute traces of the toxin give you tingly lips and light-headedness. However, if the sushi chef doesn’t prepare it properly, you’re going to have a rather nasty death. See, tetrodotoxin is a muscle paralyzer, with no known cure. So if you overdose, your muscles no longer move, including your diaphragm. You become paralyzed, and unable to breath, slowly asphyxiating under the weight of your own chest

2. LIONFISH “Lionfish aren’t so much cute as stunningly beautiful. They’re covered with majestic spines, which float elegantly along with them, as they swim around the ocean, eating their prey whole. So, what’s the problem with this stunning fish, and why wouldn’t you want one in your aquarium? Well, remember the rule of thumb when dealing with any animal: if it’s brightly colored, it’s poisonous. The Lion Fish’s spines are coated with a painful venom, which it will happily spear you with if you piss it off. While this venom won’t kill you, it will cause extreme pain, vomiting and difficulty breathing. Now imagine that happening while you’re scuba diving. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?”

3. CONE SHELLS “Cone Snails are small aquatic snails that litter the oceans of the world. They have intricately patterned and eye-catching shells, which are exactly the sort of thing little kids like to pick up and eyeball when on the beach, which is when they strike. They have a thing called a “radular tooth” which is like a fleshy ribbon coated with tiny teeth, which are linked to a poison gland. It launches this harpoon of pain out of its mouth at any threat, including you. Now, a small snail will give you a sting like a bee or wasp, enough to hurt but not a major problem. The bigger ones? They shoot with enough force to penetrate gloves. You might not feel the symptoms for days, but when they kick in, you get pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, muscle paralysis, changes in vision, and eventually respiratory failure leading to death. What is with sea life suffocating you? Dang!”

NOV 13 ADDITION Capt Rick Guest adds to this by way of comment: “Hi RH ! At least for right now there is only one species of Cone shell in the Atlantic known to be a fish-eater and therefore potentially fatal to humans; Conus ermineus. It is one of the largest Atlantic cone species. I published a paper on this species in “The Veliger”, California Malacozoological Society, vol 19, Oct 1, 1976, if you want to bother searching for it. I observed this species spearing and swallowing sizable fish whole. Also, the Cones don’t have a radula ribbon. Their radular “teeth” are shaped like Capt Ahab’s harpoon, it’s hollow and is attached to the venom gland by an almost hair-thin tube. It is then forcibly ejected from the proboscis into the fish. A larger fish’s brief struggle will usually break the connection, but the venom works extremely fast, and the prey doesn’t go far. It is quickly located,seemingly by olfactory perception, and swallowed whole. There are now videos of this out there. Definitely look ‘em up!”

4. STINGRAYS “Stingrays are generally completely fine with humans. If disturbed, they’ll generally just run for it, but sometimes are happy to hang around and play. While shy by nature, they can become accustomed to human contact, and will let you play with them. Hell, many aquariums have touch tanks with rays in them, where you’re free to stroke the fish. The only problem is what happens when you step on them. If you disturb them in almost any other way, they’ll just dash away, but if you step on one while it’s hidden in the sand, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll get a stinger jabbed through you. For most people, this hits their leg, and the stinger remains after the ray swims off, like the lower half of a bee. In addition to being impaled, the sting also injects a hefty dose of poison, which leads to horrible pain, swelling and cramps. Again, not something you want to happen while you’re underwater. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’ll be fatal. Like when Steve Irwin—the Crocodile Hunter—got stabbed through the heart by one, dying soon after.”

5. DOLPHINS Oh, dolphins, lazy stoners of the sea. They just spend all their time floating around, eating fish, doing flips, and generally living the good life. Yeah, dolphins, they’re awesome. After all, who doesn’t love Flipper? Except, it turns out Dolphins are…” [tremendously detailed allegations follow. The general tenor is that these gentle creatures are apt to be overgenerous  with their sexual attentions, to the extent that when excited... well, they are large, powerful and agile, and they may try to do that thing that dogs do to human legs, only more attentively, to a diver. That'll do as a summary. Oh, use your imagination]




Here’s a strange item found by Kasia when she was beachcombing with Caroline Stahala

Their preliminary thought was that it formed some part of a turtle’s shell or skeletal anatomy

It is quite small (the coin above is 1 Euro) but amazingly intricate – developed in 2 symmetrical halves, with both delicate ridged surfaces and also distinctively layered bone plates 


I sent the images to Charlotte Dunn and Diane Claridge of the BMMRO in case the object might have something to do with a dolphin or even a whale. In their opinion it is very probably part of a ray’s mouth plate. It would be very interesting to know if anyone else has found an object like this. If so please respond in the comment box. Many thanks to Charlotte and Diane for sparing the time to help with ID

STOP PRESS I have some done further investigations into the dental arrangements of rays. I turned to the really excellent website of the Florida Museum of Natural History. On the FLMNH page for SPOTTED EAGLE RAYS is a very interesting photo by Cathy Bester which she has kindly given me permission to use. It is captioned Spotted eagle ray dentition: open mouth showing tooth bands and floor and roof of mouth  This photo seems to go a good way to confirming the ID of Kasia’s object, although obviously it might be a fragment from a different type of ray 

For the FLMNH site CLICK LOGO 

GO PRESS (or whatever an extra stop press may be): see comments  from Black River Fossils for further confirmation as a ray palate



A while ago, I posted stills from a reef-snorkelling video – my first ever underwater video attempt, and indeed my first snorkel for about 40 years CLICK===>>> REEF FISH   I started with a stingray, producing some rather… ok, very… modest results, but it was at least identifiable if you looked carefully and felt benign.

I’ve learned a few tricks since then. Here is the whole clip, still hopeless in most respects but there’s something quite cute about the creature. Mercifully it is only 37 seconds long. I reserve the right to delete this post when I realise no one has actually watched it! [LATER: Oh! I find a few hardy souls have done so. It's a democratic vote for the ray to stay, as I see it]

[Belated credit to the fairly litigious Joe Satriani (see JS v Coldplay 2009) for borrowing the intro to one of his  songs. It's a non-commercial tribute, Joe]