Spotted Eagle Rays
The best place to spot these rays is in the tropics all around the world. They live in the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Oceania, and off both coasts of both Americas. They have been seen at depths of eighty meters (262 feet), but much of their preferred food can be found in coral reefs, so it is likely they can be found hunting around those same reefs. The colored habitats provide hiding places for small fish and crustaceans, but the eagle ray is up for the challenge. It uses its snout to dig through the sand to find its food and pokes its nose into the crevices of the reef. The eagle ray has flattened teeth to crush its food, unlike manta and devil rays, which filter feed plankton. The eagle ray also has longer tails than other rays, and these rays can range anywhere from one and a half feet to almost thirty feet in length.
“Social” may be a bit misleading. These rays are almost always seen alone, unless it is mating season. They’re not really into the whole school yard mentality a lot of other fish have. They prefer to lead sad lonely lives instead, hunting and sleeping and playing all by themselves.
On second thought, that might be for the best. Despite their ‘cuddly’ appearance, these marine creatures are actually dangerous. They have killed people! Okay, so it was only one or two people, and both times were freak accidents, but still. These guys can jump several meters out of the water, though they don’t have any control once they’re in the air. They have been known to land in boats before, which is how they have accidentally killed people. One eagle ray in the Florida Keys hit a woman in the head when it jumped out of the water, so the deaths they have caused are more wrong-place-wrong-time incidents, but that does not make them innocent. At the base of their tails are venomous barbed stingers, just waiting to lash out and strike. There is nothing cute and cuddly about these fellows.
When a daddy eagle ray really likes a mommy eagle ray, he will use his upper jaw to grab her dorsum and romantically roll her over, exposing her ventral side. Then he proves his love by connecting their venters, inserting his clasper into her. The whole process can be as short as thirty seconds, or as long as ninety seconds. Once it is over, the mommy rays carry the new baby rays for a whole year. The babies feed off of yolk sacs inside the mommy ray until they are born. The little ones are born ovoviviparous, which means that when they are born, they look like mini versions of their parents.
The Spotted Eagle Ray is not considered endangered, but it is considered near threatened. They are fished heavily in Southeast Asia and in Africa, and sharks love making a meal of them in any ocean.