Creature Feature: Bat Ray

Bat Rays are one of the most beautiful animals that live in the bay.

By: Courtney Hunt

They swim gracefully through the water by flapping their bat like wings (which are their pectoral fins). The bat ray has smooth skin which is dark brown or black in color, changing to white on the underside. Rays are a cartilaginous fish, which means they lack true bone and have skeletons made out of cartilage. Like sharks, bat rays have electrosensory organs called Ampullae of Lorenzini located on the underside of their head. They are able to locate prey by detecting the electrical fields produced by muscles and nerves of animals. Bat rays enjoy eating invertebrates like bivalves, mollusks, polychaetes, shrimps, and crabs. Bat Ray teeth are fused into plates that can crush the strongest clam shells. The rays crush the entire clam, or other mollusks, inside their mouths, spit out the shells, and then eat the soft, fleshy parts.

The maximum reported wing span width of the bat ray is 6 feet with a maximum weight 200 pounds. Bat rays are known to live at least 23 years. Bat Rays are ovoviviparous species meaning eggs are fertilized internally and litters of up to 10 are born live, usually in summer or fall, following a gestation period of 1 year. While the bat ray has a venomous spine in its tail, it is not considered dangerous and uses the spine only when attacked or frightened.

Next time you come to MSI, check out our aquarium and look for the bat ray in one of our bay tanks!

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