Stingrays pepper the Whitsundays and are often seen when snorkelling, playing in the shallows or visiting Whitehaven Beach. They are closely related to sharks, but have wide flat bodies and mostly hang out on the ocean floor.
With a body designed to bottom feed and blend in with their surroundings, often times all you can see of these cool creatures is their long barbed tail as their bodies stay hidden underneath the sand. They have flattened teeth-like crushers that are ideal for crunching shellfish, which is what they mainly feed on. They also eat worms, fish, shrimp and squid, never eating plants, as they are completely carnivorous.
Stingrays swim by moving their pectoral fins in a wave like motion, which quickly propels them through the ocean. Their fins look a little like wings, and they have a flying appearance as they glide along. Their flat body ends with a long tail, at which the end is a barb used for protection.
The barb, or stinger, is razor sharp and grows from the end of their whip-like tail. It can grow as along as 37cm, and despite popular belief, is not used to hunt. The underside of the barb has two grooves that contain venom, which is used as a last resort in self-defense. Mostly, if a stingray feels threatened, it will flee or retreat to get away from the threat. Only when they are unable to do so will they use their barb. They are not an aggressive species and are not known to actively defend themselves.
If a human is stung by a stingray, it is usually due to the fact that they have stepped on them, not knowing they are under the sand. Many rays in the Whitsundays are smaller in size, meaning that their sting usually gets the unknowing human in the foot. It’s usually not serious, if not painful, and often does not require medical attention.
There are a few types of common stingrays around the Whitsundays and you will often see them while visiting the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Keep a watchful eye out for the short tailed stingrays and bluespotted stingrays in the shallows.
The short tailed stingray is often spotted in the Whitsundays and is known for being the largest stingray in the world. They have large, smooth bodies that are usually wider than they are long. They have short tails compared to the length of their bodies, which is where they get their name. They can grow as large at 2.1 metres across and have been known to weigh up to 350kg. These huge animals are still docile, spending much of their time on the ocean floor. They do also swim in open ocean, using their large pectoral fins to propel them along. They are grey in colour, are are found in many of the world’s oceans in Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa.
The bluespotted stingray is a beautiful spotted stingray often sighted in the Whitsundays. They have a diet and lifestyle much like other rays, spending their time on the ocean floor and eating worms, shellfish, shrimp and squid. They are yellow or tan in colour, with blue spots covering their flat bodies. They also have bright yellow eyes, which are situated so that they can best see their prey.