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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spotlight: Rays

Stingrays are very cool creatures. They don't look like anything else: huge wings gently propelling their large, round bodies, often with a length tail behind. Very alien, you know? I really enjoy swimming with rays. I have seen manta rays and spotted eagle rays (in Hawaii), but Belize offered my first opportunity to swim closely to the rays during the day time.

There are three species of rays that can be commonly spotted in Belize. We saw one spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) with its distinctive white spots on a black top surface, at a distance, but didn't get a chance to photograph it. The most commonly encountered rays were horseshoe rays. These guys get quite large, up to about 8 feet across. They are very gentle and not shy, enabling us to approach them closely:






The other commonly spotted species is the southern sting ray (Dasyatis Americana). Compared to the horseshoe ray, they have more pointed wings, and have a barbed venomous tail (that is potentially dangerous, although humans are rarely harmed by them). We spotted these during the day and during our night dive at Hol Chan:




Here is a video that shows us swimming with horseshoe and southern sting rays. Very cool creatures, and I look forward to seeing them again!

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