The stingray is among the world’s most unique and fascinating animals, and these cartilaginous critters have frightened and fascinated people for generations. They’ve inspired misplaced anger in the news, such as when one was connected with the death of famed conservationist Steve Irwin, as well as admiration for their anatomy, with some on the Internet naming them “sea pancakes.”
Stingrays may not look it, but they’re relatives to the shark, belonging to the same family known as “elasmobranchs.” Like their shark cousins, stingrays have skeletons made of cartilage, not bone. All the same, the stingray has evolved into an animal truly in a class of its own. Their flat bodies allow them to bury their bodies in the seabed, peering out with the eyes on top of their heads, where they can hide from predators or ambush prey. Rays have a challenge when eating however – their eyes and mouth are on opposite sides of their bodies. To get around this, stingrays have smell and electroreceptors on their underside which help them zero in on their next meal.
More than half a dozen stingray species make the Aquarium their home, from the spotted eagle stingray (which guests may recognize as the “Mr. Ray’s” species from “Finding Nemo”) to the cownose stingray, which swims by flapping its fins like a bird. In certain areas of the Aquarium, guests can even touch stingrays! Each stingray in our touch pools has their barb trimmed by staff, a procedure as easy and painless as trimming a fingernail, so the stingray touch experience stays safe for human and stingray alike.