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California Spotted Stingray
(Urolophus halleri)


stingray

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California Spotted Stingrays, Urolophus halleri, are members of the family Dasyatidae. This ray is endemic to the coastlines of southern North and Central America.  Breeding grounds range as far north as Eureka, California. and as far south as Panama.  Ray populations increase significantly south of Point Concept, California.

Few creatures in the world’s oceans have the grace and elegance of the stingray in motion. Stingrays are prized possessions among the most elite saltwater aficionados for their unmatched exoticism. The mere fact that the most famous sports car ever produced in the United States was emblazoned with the insignia “stingray” for almost a generation bears testimonial to the sense of awe the name is meant to elicit.

The California Spotted Stingray has a nearly circular disc-shaped body.  Its tail and body are approximately the same length. A rounded snout blends into the unified body unit. Massive pectoral fins also merge seamlessly with the body. All stingrays lack dorsal fins. This absence further accentuates their flat disk-like physique. California spotted rays do, however, have rounded caudal fins. This feature is not found on most rays. The top of this species’ disc is grayish brown in color. Underbellies range from white, to pale yellow or even orange. The name spotted stingray bears reference to the spotting pattern adorning their upper disc section. These spots may be blue, green, brown or grey ranging to almost black. They may be solid dots or rings. Like most stingray, these rays have venomous barbs. Their barbs are located halfway down the length of their tails. This species is also market by the aquarium trade as California rays or round stingrays.

All stingrays are bottom dwellers. They spend an exorbitant amount of time buried in the sand or mud. This provides natural camouflage while the ray awaits its next meal. When keeping a stingray in captivity a sand substrate is mandatory. Gravel, pebbles or crushed coral can easily cause surface wounds and may result in infection. NEVER use copper based medications in an aquarium containing a ray. You could inadvertently kill it.

This species can grow to almost two feet in diameter. A minimum tank size of 200 gallons is recommended. A fair portion of the bottom surface should be dedicated to your ray’s instinctive habit of burying itself. California rays are rated as an aggressive species. This is primarily due to its venomous and predacious nature. Rays will flee form human intrusion if given the opportunity. However, common sense should be applied when netting this species or performing routine maintenance on your aquarium. Keep in mind, you are dealing with a species that can cause you to make an unexpected trip to the emergency room for treatment.

Stingrays actually make acceptable community dwellers for multi-species aquariums. Their venomous barbs are only used as a means of self-defense. They should only be housed with larger species to avoid predation. Do not house them with species that are aggressive enough to take to poking or prodding them out of general curiosity. Of course should this happen, it will probably not occur a second time. Rays are not suitable candidates for marine reef aquariums. They have two plates in their mouth designed for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks.  Introducing one to your marine reef habitat would be the equivalent to taking it to an all you can eat buffet.

This is a carnivorous species. Because of their close proximity to the US market, they should arrive in better overall condition than their eastern cousins, the blue dot stingray. Even so, they still carry an expert only rating. This rating is due in large to their failure to acclimate to captivity. Stingrays are notorious for their reluctance to feed when introduced to captive surroundings. Live brine or ghost shrimp may entice a ray to start feeding. Once it is feeding, you will still need to condition it to accept non-living food items. Frozen, freeze-dried or flake foods can be incrementally increase in proportion to live offerings. After it is properly acclimated its diet can be further supplemented with fresh chopped fish, squid, crustaceans and mollusks.

California Stingray Breeding and Human Interaction in Nature

Spawning season for the California spotted stingray occurs between January and March. Unlike many marine species, it is the female who attracts the male for copulation. Sexually mature females emit positive electrical fields from spiracles located behind their eyes. Although localized, these sensory fields will attract any mature adult in close proximity. Once attracted, the male will typically latch onto the female with his mouth to hold her in place for the purpose of copulation. If a female is bitten on the anterior region of her disc she will not attempt to escape.

Rays are ovoviviparous.  They give live birth. Their gestation period lasts approximately 3 months. Litters range from 3-6 rays. A newborn ray is 2.5-3 inches in diameter. This makes them easy targets for predation. Adult rays will remain with their young until they are old enough to better fend for themselves. Shallow water provides rich feeding grounds and protection form predators. One documented stingray nursery is in Newport Dunes, Southern California.

The instinctual behavior of remaining in shallow waters invariably leads to human interaction. As previously stated, stingrays bury themselves in the sand. This means they are frequently unseen by beach goers. In any given year, there are over 100 cases of people being stung after having accidentally stepped on a stingray.

Environmental Parameters

Temperature

pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.020-1.025

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