The Blotched Stingray (Taeniura meyeni) is a widespread species in the Indo-Pacific area and therefore has many different names depending on the location: Marbled Ray, Round Ribbontail Ray, Blotched Fantail Ray, Black-blotched Stingray, Blackspotted Stingray, Giant Reef Ray, and Speckled Stingray, to name a few.
These nocturnal rays are widespread and quite common in the tropical waters of the entire Indo-Pacific region. They are often found near vertical structures, caves, and overhangs during the daytime.
The Blotched Stingray has an almost perfectly round-shaped disc that is mottled or marbled with light to dark grey, brown-grey, or purplish colours on the upside. It has a white pattern and creamy-white underside with darker fin margins and additional dark dots. It also possesses a venomous spine on its tail base, which it uses for defence, classifying it as a true stingray (family Dasyatidae). This very large ray can reach a total length of 330cm/11ft and a width of 180cm/6ft or so, with a total weight of nearly 135kg/300lb.
These beautiful stingrays may be encountered as solitary individuals or in large aggregations. During reproduction, these rays can form very large groups, with often a single female being pursued by tens of males hoping to mate. These reproductive aggregations can gather more than one hundred individuals.
The Blotched Stingray feeds on bivalves, crustaceans like crabs and shrimp, and small fish that hide in the substrate, such as razorfish. It hunts its prey by assuming a characteristic bow-like posture and blowing water through its mouth to uncover hidden prey buried under the sand.
Although few animals are known to prey on this ray, it is often targeted by larger species such as sharks and marine mammals. Different species of hammerhead sharks and Killer Whales or Orcas (Orcinus orca) are known to hunt these giants. When threatened, this stingray raises its tail over its back, with the venomous spine facing forward, and waves its tail back and forth. If you, as a scuba diver, observe this gesture, it is time to move back a little, as a sting from this ray's spine can inflict a fatal wound.
These beautiful big rays usually make great subjects in underwater films and videos. However, they often lie motionless on the bottom, which can be quite boring on video. Film while approaching slowly. When you approach closely, the ray will start moving slowly, resulting in much better underwater footage. If you, as an underwater videographer, get too close for the ray's comfort, it will swim away and leave its resting spot. Once the animal takes off, it is of no use to chase it. Let it go. Most underwater animals, if not all, will easily out-swim you, so any pursuit will be in vain. In my experience, it is most likely the smaller or younger individuals that are more wary of a diver's presence and often flee the scene. The larger individuals do not flee as easily and tend to ignore most scuba divers and underwater photographers and videographers.
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