- AMNH 49556 (male, 801 mm TL, 282 mm DW); AMNH 49556 (female, 815 mm TL, 360 mm DW); AMNH 49556 (female, 775 mm TL, 283 mm DW); AMNH 49556 (female, 789 mm TL, 298 mm DW); AMNH 49555 (female, 889 mm TL, 308 mm DW); AMNH 4955 (female, 864 mm TL, 350 mm DW); AMNH 76592 (male, 727 mm TL, 233 mm DW); UERJ 785 (male, 574 mm TL, 184 mm DW).
- Hugo Ricardo Secioso Santos, Ulisses Leite Gomes, Patricia Charvet-Almeida (2004): A new species of whiptail stingray of the genus Dasyatis Rafinesque, 1810 from the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes: Dasyatidae). Zootaxa 492, 1-12: 2-2, URL:http://www.zoobank.org/urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:014FFEF7-4937-401D-8C46-5E4104444056
Roughtail stingrays, Dasyatis centroura, reside in tropical and temperate waters of the coastal Atlantic Ocean, ranging from the coast of Massachusetts to Brazil, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and Angola. During summer months, roughtail stingrays are more prevalent in bays, estuaries and coastal waters. From December to May, they tend to migrate to northern waters away from the coast but not beyond the continental shelf.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); mediterranean sea (Native )
Northwest Atlantic: Georges Bank and Cape Cod south to Florida and in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico (USA), and in the Bahamas. The species is not recorded from Mexico (Castro-Aguirre and Perez 1996).
Southwest Atlantic: From Isla Blanca and Cubagua, Venezuela (Cervigón and Alcalá 1999), from Barra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro State (Buckup et al. 2000) and recently in Ceará State, Brazil, as well as locations off Uruguay and Argentina (Menni and Stehmann 2000).
A single report from the Indian Ocean (off Quilon, India) is most probably a misidentification (Silas and Selvaraj 1985).
Male roughtail stingrays have an average width of 1.5 m while females have an average width of 1.6 m. Their disc length can be as long as 2.2 m. The body of roughtail stingrays is diamond-shaped, and a long tail trails from their backside. Their whiplike tail has many rows of venomous barbs and can grow up to 2.5 times the length of the body. Body color ranges from dark brown to an olive tone. The underside is white, while the tail is black. The outer edges of their disc bear distinctive conical tubercles. Roughtail stingrays do not have a dorsal finfold, and their snout is fairly long and angular. They can weigh as much as 300 kg.
Range mass: 300 (high) kg.
Range length: 221 (high) cm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Roughtail stingrays usually reside in benthic environments and in marine and brackish waters. They prefer areas with sandy bottoms. In the summer, they favor bays, estuaries, and coastal waters, and in winter, they move away from the coast but not beyond the continental shelf. They generally swim at depths of 50 to 200 m, but they have been seen at depths of 274 m in the Bahamas. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, roughtail stingrays remain near shore and are found at an average depth of 60 m, while rays in the western Atlantic are found deeper at 200 m.
Range depth: 50 to 274 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine
Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; coastal ; brackish water
Other Habitat Features: estuarine
Habitat and Ecology
One of the largest known stingrays, the largest maximum size thus far reported for the species range-wide is 260 cm DW and 290 kg from the southern Adriatic (Dulcic et al. 2003). Maximum size is also reported at 210 to 220 cm disc width (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002, Capapé and Desoutter 1990). Size at maturity varies with region, McEachran and de Carvalho (2002) reported size at maturity in males at 130 to 150 cm disc width, and 140 to 160 cm disc width for females, and Capapé (1993) reported 80 cm disc width for males and 66 to 100 cm for females in the Mediterranean.
This species is ovoviviparous. Size at birth is reported as 34 to 37 cm (McEachran and de Carvalho 2002) and 8 to 13 cm (Notarbartolo and Bianchi 1998, Bini 1967). Capapé (1993) reported that gestation lasts for a minimum of four months and fecundity ranges from 2 to 6 pups per litter.
The diet consists of fishes and invertebrates, including crabs, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953). Off Virginia (USA), stomachs from three adult males contained large numbers of a single prey species, the callianassid shrimp Upogebia affinis (Grubbs unpublished data).
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 236 samples.
Depth range (m): 0 - 275
Temperature range (°C): 7.337 - 25.634
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 11.428
Salinity (PPS): 32.507 - 36.472
Oxygen (ml/l): 3.228 - 6.494
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.093 - 0.949
Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 6.844
Depth range (m): 0 - 275
Temperature range (°C): 7.337 - 25.634
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 11.428
Salinity (PPS): 32.507 - 36.472
Oxygen (ml/l): 3.228 - 6.494
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.093 - 0.949
Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 6.844
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
Recorded at 200 meters.
Roughtail stingrays are opportunistic carnivores, adapting their diet to include the most available prey. Crustaceans, such as vernal crabs Liocarcinus vernalis and callianassid shrimp Upogebia affinis, are an integral part of their diet. Stomach content analyses indicate that roughtail stingrays eat cephalopods such as squid Loligo and cuttlefish Sepia latimanus. Other prey include bony fishes, like sand lance Ammodytes dubius and scup Stenotomus chrysops. Infaunal polychaete worms (Glycera dibranchiata) are also consumed.
Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; cnidarians
Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)
Rays, such as roughtail stingrays, are avid hunters of benthic mollusks, fish, crustaceans and worms, and they may help regulate infaunal benthic community structure. Rays are also prey for sharks, such as great hammerhead sharks.
Sharks are the main predators of stingrays, including rougtail stingrays. To avoid visual detection, rays conceal themselves just below the surface of muddy and sandy bottoms. Their barbed spine serves as a defense against certain predators; however, it is not always successful, as stingray spines are found in the mouths of many types of sharks. Great hammerhead sharks have a unique method of eating rays: they pin down a ray to the seafloor using their uniquely shaped head, then pivot around to bite the ray's disc. Some humans also eat roughtail stingrays.
- great hammer head sharks Sphyrna lewini
- other sharks Selachimorpha
- humans Homo sapiens
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Roughtail stingrays use touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell to perceive their enviornment. Furthermore, like other cartilaginous fish, they can detect electical waves produced by other organisms. They use this ability to find infaunal prey buried within the substrate.
Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: vibrations
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical ; electric ; magnetic
Rays in the family Dasyatidae, including roughtail stingrays, produce relatively few young. Stingrays in general have 1 litter a year, producing between 2 and 6 young. Embryos developing in their mother's womb receive most of their nutriment from the histotroph, a milky substance secreted by the mother’s uterine lining. Embryos absorb nutriment through their skin and spiracles. During this time, embryos absorb the yolk sack and stalk. Roughtail stingrays are born fully developed and relatively large (up to half the size of a full grown adult), increasing their chances of survival.
Little information is known regarding the lifespan and longevity of roughtail stingrays. Some sharks and rays do not reach full maturity for 20 to 30 years. Large rays live about 70 years, some living for more than 100 years.
Little is known about the natural mating behavior and mating system of roughtail stingrays. They, like other stingrays, do not form monogamous pairs, and they may be polygynous like southern sting rays (Dasyatis americana). Rays practice internal fertilization; a male inserts one of his two claspers into the female’s cloaca to deposit sperm.
Male roughtail stingrays reach sexual maturity at a length of 130 to 150 cm and females at 140 to 160 cm. In females ready to reproduce, their left ovary is commonly more developed than the right. Roughtail stingrays generally breed in Autumn or early winter. Gestation lasts 4 months, and females usually give birth in April. Stingrays have one litter a year, producing between 2 and 6 young. Roughtail stingrays measure between 34 at 37 cm at birth.
Breeding interval: Roughtail Stingrays breed once a year.
Breeding season: Roughtail Stingrays breed in Autumn or early winter.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.
Average gestation period: 4 months.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; induced ovulation ; fertilization (Internal ); ovoviviparous
Pregnant female roughtail stingrays provide nutritional support to their developing offspring. While young are in the embryonic sac, their stomachs and intestine develop first. This helps them to digest the milky fluid (histotroph) secreted by their mother's uterus. After birth, young rays receive no further investment from their mother and are able to find food on their own.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dasyatis centroura
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
Although roughtail stingrays are not considered threatened, their large size and low fecundity make them vulnerable to population decreases. They are sometimes taken as bycatch or are accidentally caught through trawl fishing, artisanal fisheries and other fishing practices.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
In the western north Atlantic, the species is common and widely distributed. It is taken in groundfish trawl surveys (Struhsaker 1969, J. Musick pers. comm., R. Myers pers. comm). VIMS longline survey data show no population trends in CPUE between 1996 and 2003 (Musick unpublished data). NMFS groundfish trawl survey data show no population trends (stable populations) since 1963 in the mid-Atlantic Bight (R. Myers pers. comm). It is less common in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and becomes increasingly rare in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Little information is available on the population in the Southwest Atlantic.
This stingray is taken by demersal trawl, gillnets, longlines, and hook and line (Stehmann 1981). Fishing pressure is intense throughout the range of this coastal ray and it is considered Vulnerable in Rio de Janeiro Municipality (Buckup et al. 2000). Brazil has reported among the highest capture production of elasmobranchs to FAO in recent years (Bonfil et al. 2005). Coastal species are the most important commercial elasmobranchs in the Southwest Atlantic and fishing pressure is intense throughout much of the relatively shallow habitat of this species (Bonfil et al. 2005). Skate and ray landings in the artisanal fishery in the Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil have declined significantly since the early 1950s (Klippel et al. 2005). One female specimen was recorded in a year's sampling of the landings of artisanal fleet at Caicara do Norte in northeastern Brazil (Yokota and Lessa 2006). Like many elasmobranch species, anecdotal evidence from interviews with fishermen (from Caiçara do Norte, Rio grande do Norte State, northeastern Brazil) indicate that the D. centroura is more rarely caught now than previously (L. Yokota pers. comm. 2006).
Coastal trawling effort is also intense in Argentina, where batoids are an important resource in most demersal trawl fisheries (Tamini et al. 2006). A coastal multispecies demersal trawl fishery operates at Quequén (38°37S, 58°50) down to about 60 m depth, in which bycatch of batoids fluctuates seasonally between 44.5% and 67.5% of total capture (Tamini et al. 2006). The species is apparently only rarely captured in Uruguay (A. Domingo pers. comm).
Fishery industries tend to show an interest in large dasyatids as a source of minced fish products, implying that exploitation pressure and population depletion may increase in the future.
This species is not targeted in US waters of the Northwest Atlantic and the available data on population trends suggest stable populations off the east coast of the USA. Although there is some bycatch in shrimp and groundfish trawl and bottom longline fisheries (G. Burgess pers. comm.), the impact is considered to be minimal.
In the Mediterranean this stingray is taken as bycatch of the artisanal fisheries, bottom set longline, gillnet and handline (Fischer et al. 1987). Benthic trawl effort has increased both effort and efficiency in the shelf and slope areas of the Mediterranean Sea over the last 50 years. The continental shelf and upper slope of the Mediterranean Sea are highly exploited, with intensive commercial trawling occurring at depths ranging from 50 to 700-800 m (Colloca et al. 2003, Massuti and Moranta 2003). As a result there has been increasing concern about changes in the abundance and diversity of elasmobranchs in this region, and decreases in the abundance and biomass of some species throughout the last decade have been reported in highly exploited areas such as the Gulf of Lions (Aldebert 1997, Massuti and Moranta 2003). Although no species specific data are available, the very large size of D. centroura makes it intrinsically vulnerable to population depletion. Given that this species is rarely captured in the Mediterranean, high exploitation of the continental shelf, its intrinsic vulnerability and evidence for declines where data are available in other elasmobranch species within this region, it is suspected to have declined.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Roughtail stingrays have an excruciating venomous sting, which serves as their primary defense if stepped on or threatened. In some cases, their sting has been fatal to humans. Although rays are more commonly found in water depths of 50 to 200 m, they occasionally travel to shallower waters, posing a threat to humans.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )
Roughtail stingrays are commonly eaten by Australian Aborigines. The Aborigines use stingray spines to make spears tips, daggers, and whips. Rays are also consumed in Europe and Asia, and the fins of some rays are harvested in Asia for traditional medicinal purposes.
Positive Impacts: food ; source of medicine or drug
The roughtail stingray (Dasyatis centroura) is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, with separate populations in coastal waters of the northwestern, eastern, and southwestern Atlantic Ocean. This bottom-dwelling species typically inhabits sandy or muddy areas with patches of invertebrate cover, at a depth of 15–50 m (49–164 ft). It is seasonally migratory, overwintering in offshore waters and moving into coastal habitats for summer. The largest whip-tail stingray in the Atlantic, the roughtail stingray grows up to 2.6 m (8.5 ft) across and 360 kg (800 lb) in weight. It is plain in color, with an angular, diamond-shaped pectoral fin disc and a long, whip-tail tail bearing a subtle fin fold underneath. The many thorns on its back and tail serve to distinguish it from other stingrays that share its range.
Often found lying on the bottom buried in sediment, the roughtail stingray is a generalist predator that feeds on a variety of benthic invertebrates and bony fishes. It is aplacental viviparous, with the embryos receiving nourishment initially from yolk, and later from histotroph ("uterine milk") produced by the mother. In the northwestern Atlantic, females bear an annual litter of 4–6 young in fall and early winter, after a gestation period of 9–11 months. By contrast, in the Mediterranean there is evidence that females bear two litters of 2–6 young per year after a gestation period of only four months. Rays in the northwestern Atlantic are also larger at birth and at sexual maturity than those from the Mediterranean. The venomous tail spine of the roughtail stingray is potentially dangerous to humans. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species under Least Concern overall and in the northwestern Atlantic, where it is not commercially utilized. However, in the Mediterranean and southwestern Atlantic it is subject to heavy fishing pressure and has been assessed as Near Threatened.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
The first description of the roughtail stingray was published by American naturalist Samuel Mitchell in one of the earliest North American works on ichthyology, a short treatise on the fishes of New York in the 1815 first volume of Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York. Mitchell based his account on specimens caught off Long Island, though did not designate any types, and named the new species Raja centroura, from the Greek centoro ("pricker") in reference to its thorns. Subsequent authors moved this species to the genus Dasyatis. This ray may also be referred to as rough-tailed stingray, rough-tailed northern stingray, or thorny stingray.
The taxonomy of the roughtail stingray is not fully resolved, with the disjunct northwestern Atlantic, southwestern Atlantic, and eastern Atlantic populations differing in life history and perhaps representing a complex of different species. Lisa Rosenberger's 2001 phylogenetic analysis of 14 Dasyatis species, based on morphology, found that the roughtail stingray is the sister species to the broad stingray (D. lata), and that they form a clade with the southern stingray (D. americana) and the longtail stingray (D. longa). The close relationship between the roughtail and southern stingrays was upheld by a genetic analysis published by Leticia de Almeida Leao Vaz and colleagues in 2006. The roughtail and broad stingrays are found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively, and therefore likely diverged before or with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama (c. 3 Ma).
Distribution and habitat
The roughtail stingray is broadly but discontinuously distributed in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In the western Atlantic, it occurs from the Georges Bank off New England southward to Florida, the Bahamas, and the northeastern Gulf of Mexico; there are also scattered reports from Venezuela to Argentina and on the Barrier reef in Belize. In the eastern Atlantic, it occurs from the southern Bay of Biscay to Angola, including the Mediterranean Sea, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. A single record from Quilon, India was likely a misidentification.
One of the deepest-diving stingrays, the roughtail stingray has been recorded to a depth of 274 m (899 ft) in the Bahamas and regularly occurs down to 200 m (660 ft) in the Mediterranean. However, it is most common at a depth of 15–50 m (49–164 ft). This bottom-dwelling species favors live-bottom habitat (patches of rough terrain that are densely encrusted by sessile invertebrates), and also frequents adjacent open areas of sand or mud. Rays in the northwestern Atlantic do not usually enter brackish water, whereas those off West Africa have been recorded from the lower reaches of large rivers.
The favored temperature range of the roughtail stingray is 15–22 °C (59–72 °F), which is the most important factor determining its distribution. It conducts seasonal migrations off the eastern United States: from December to May, this ray is found over the middle and outer parts of the continental shelf from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Florida, with larger rays occurring further south than smaller ones. In the spring, the population moves north of the Cape and towards the coast into bays, inlets, and saltier estuaries, though preserving the north-south gradient of body sizes. A similar migration, from shallow coastal waters in summer to deeper offshore waters in winter, apparently occurs in the Mediterranean. Pregnant females tend to be found apart from other individuals.
The roughtail stingray has a diamond-shaped pectoral fin disk 1.2–1.3 times as wide as long, with straight to gently sinuous margins, rather angular outer corners, and a moderately long, obtuse snout. The eyes are proportionally smaller than other stingrays in its range and immediately followed by larger spiracles. There is a curtain of skin between the nostrils with a finely fringed posterior margin. The mouth is bow-shaped with a row of six papillae (nipple-like structures) across the floor. The seven upper and 12–14 lower tooth rows at the center are functional, though the total number of tooth rows is much greater. The teeth are arranged with a quincunx pattern into flattened surfaces; each has a tetragonal base with a blunt crown in juveniles and females, and a pointed cusp in adult males.
The pelvic fins have nearly straight margins and angular tips. The tail is long and whip-like, measuring some 2.5 times the length of the disc. A long, saw-toothed spine is placed atop the tail at around half a disc length back from the tail base; sometimes one or two replacement spines are also present in front of the existing one. Behind the spine, there is a long ventral fin fold that is much lower than that of the southern stingray. Individuals under 46–48 cm (18–19 in) across have completely smooth skin. Larger rays develop increasing numbers of distinctive tubercles or bucklers (flat-based thorns) over the middle of the back from the snout to the tail base, as well as dorsal and lateral rows of thorns on the tail. The bucklers vary in size, with the largest of equal diameter to the eye, and may bear up to three thorns each. This species is a uniform dark brown or olive above, and off-white below without dark fin margins. Among the largest members of its family, the roughtail stingray can reach 2.6 m (8.5 ft) across, 4.3 m (14 ft) long, and 360 kg (800 lb) in weight. Females grow larger than males.
Biology and ecology
The roughtail stingray is reportedly not highly active, spending much time buried in the sediment. It is a generalist predator whose diet generally reflects the most available prey in its environment. It mainly captures prey off the bottom, but also opportunistically takes free-swimming prey. A variety of invertebrates, as well as bony fishes such as sand lance and scup, are known to be consumed. Off Massachusetts, the main prey are crabs (Cancer), bivalves (Mya), gastropods (Polinices), squid (Loligo) and annelid worms. In Delaware Bay, most of its diet consists of the shrimp Cragon septemspinosa and the blood worm Glycera dibranchiata; the overall dietary composition there is nearly identical to that of bluntnose stingrays (D. say) that share the bay. The shrimp Upogebia affinis is a major food source off Virginia. Off Florida, crustaceans (Rananoides, Ovalipes, Sicyonia brevirostris, and Portunus) and polychaete worms are the most important prey.
Sharks and other large fishes, in particular the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), prey upon the roughtail stingray. The live sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates) is sometimes found attached to its body. Known parasites of this species include the tapeworms Acanthobothrium woodsholei, Anthocephalum centrurum, Lecanicephalum sp., Oncomegas wageneri, Polypocephalus sp., Pterobothrium senegalense, and Rhinebothrium maccallumi, the monogenean Dendromonocotyle centrourae, and the leech Branchellion torpedinis.
Like other stingrays, the roughtail stingray is aplacental viviparous: the developing embryo is initially sustained by yolk and later by histotroph ("uterine milk", containing proteins, lipids, and mucus) delivered by the mother through finger-like projections of the uterine epithelium called "trophonemata". Only the left ovary and uterus are functional in adult females. Off the eastern United States, reproduction occurs on an annual cycle with mating in winter and early spring. After a gestation period of 9–11 months, females give birth to 4–6 (typically five) young in fall or early winter. The newborns measure 34–37 cm (13–15 in) across. Off North Africa, birthing occurs in June and December, indicating either that females bear two litters per year with a four-month gestation period, or that there are two cohorts of females bearing one litter per year with a ten-month gestation period. The newborns are much smaller than those in the northwestern Atlantic at 8–13 cm (3.1–5.1 in) across, which would be consistent with a shorter gestation period. The size at maturity also differs between the two regions: off the eastern United States males and females mature at 130–150 cm (51–59 in) and 140–160 cm (55–63 in) across respectively, while off North Africa males and females mature at 80 cm (31 in) and 66–100 cm (26–39 in) across respectively.
With its large size and long, venomous spine, the roughtail stingray can inflict a severe wound and can be very dangerous for fishers to handle. However, it is not aggressive and usually occurs too deep to be encountered by beachgoers. It has been reported to damage farmed shellfish beds. The pectoral fins or "wings" are sold for human consumption fresh, smoked, or dried and salted; the rest of the ray may also be processed to obtain fishmeal and liver oil. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the roughtail stingray as of Least Concern worldwide, while noting that as a large, slow-reproducing species it is susceptible to population depletion.
In the northwestern Atlantic, the roughtail stingray is listed under Least Concern; it is not targeted or utilized by commercial fisheries, though inconsequential numbers are captured incidentally in trawls and on demersal longlines. Historically, it was sometimes ground up for fertilizer. In the Mediterranean, intensive fishing occurs in the habitat of the roughtail stingray, and it is caught incidentally by artisanal and commercial fishers using trawls, longlines, gillnets, and handlines. Though no specific data is available on this species, declines of other species and its intrinsic susceptibility to depletion have led it to be assessed as Near Threatened in the region. In the southwestern Atlantic, the roughtail stingray and other large rays are heavily fished using demersal trawls, gillnets, longlines, and hook-and-line; this fishing pressure is liable to increase due to growing commercial interest in using large stingrays for minced fish products. Anecdotal reports suggest that landings of this species are decreasing, leading to a regional assessment of Near Threatened.
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