The southern stingray (Hypanus americanus) is highly adapted to life on the seafloor. They are often found buried in the sand, nearly completely hidden with only their eyes and spiracles exposed. The spiracles are like breathing tubes that allow the stingray to pass water through their gills while buried.
Hiding in the sand is not the southern stingray’s only defense against predators such as hammerhead sharks. They also possess a long serrated and venomous spine that they can use when threatened. Their venom is not deadly to humans, but it is extremely painful.
Southern stingrays can hunt in vast ranges of the ocean’s coast, following the tides, as they sweep the sandy bottom for prey. They swim by moving their body in a wavelike motion, which allows them to move quickly and efficiently in order to cover large distances with ease.
In addition to an excellent sense of smell, southern stingrays have special organs called of ampullae of Lorenzini, that allow them to sense the electro-magnetic fields of buried prey.
Some studies have shown that they communicate using their excellent sense of smell combined with the production of pheromones. One example of this, is after giving birth to their young, females excrete a pheromone that lets males know that they are ready to mate again.
Female southern stingrays are significantly larger than males, and can grow to a maximum disk-width of over 5 feet. Southern stingrays are listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List.
They are not know to be aggressive toward human beings, but will raise their barbed tails as a defense mechanism if they feel threatened. We cautiously photographed this huge female along the Pacific coast of Mexico, while diving in Huatulco, Mexico. Read more in our post, Scuba Diving, Hualtuco, Mexico.