Creature Feature: Bat Ray

Common Facts:

Scientific name – Myliobatis californica

Habitat – Sandy seafloors

Range – Eastern Pacific from Oregon, to the Sea of Cortex and near the Galapagos Islands

Diet – Molluscs, crustaceans, small fish

Size – Female can reach wingspans of 6 feet and weights of 200 pounds, while males are smaller

Life Span – Up to 35 years

The Bat Ray is an animal that we see often at the Marine Science Institute because many of them live here in the San Francsico bay! These graceful creatures get their name from not only the way they look, but they way they swim. They swim by flapping their pectoral fins (which have a strong resemblance to wings). They love to hang out in muddy and sandy bottomed bays, kelp forests and near coral reefs.

Bat Rays use their “wings” for more than just moving around. They flap their fins to stir up the sand on the ocean floor to expose potential food sources. Once they find something to eat, like a clam, they can use their snout to dig them up. Bat Rays have teeth that are fused into plates. This enables them to crush almost any clam shell. They crush the shell, spit out the shards and get the soft and fleshy parts. And lucky for Bat Rays, their teeth are constantly growing! So if a tooth ever breaks, they have nothing to worry about—it will be replaced soon.

Bat Rays tend to be lone riders, except when it’s mating season or time to feed. Female bat rays carry their babies for 9-12 months before giving birth. And they can give birth to 2-12 pups! Depending on how big the mother is.

If you’re ever swimming and see a Bat Ray, it would be better to keep your distance. These creatures have 3 poisonous barbs on their tails that they use to defend themselves from predators. And they won’t stop to ask if you are friend or foe before they use them!

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Written by: Kari Shirley, intern


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