The Hideaway TimesFriday, September 15, 2006
Cownose rays surface
News-Journal/JIM TILLERIts tail bitten off by a predator, a cownose ray swims toward the surface recently to check out the Sunglow Pier before returning to the school below and swimming under the pier as the made their way north along the coast of Daytona Beach Shores.
Maybe you’ve seen them skimming along the ocean’s surface. Their ability to pierce the water with their wingtips gives them the appearance of something other than they are.
Perhaps you’ve spotted their gray shapes hovering just above the ocean floor, long tails swaying.
These aren’t just any rays — they’re cownose rays.
The death of Steve Irwin from a stingray barb has raised awareness of this family of gentle sea creatures. But where does the cownose ray fit in?
Cownose rays have a unique feature — long, pointed pectoral fins that separate into two lobes in front of their high-domed heads. A crease in the lobes and a notched head create a cow-nose likeness that gives these rays their name.
Cownose rays, a cousin to the stingray, use their flexible fin lobes to probe the seafloor for prey, like clams. After detecting buried prey, they dig deep depressions in the sand by flapping their pectoral fins and, at the same time, sucking sand through their mouths and out their gill slits. The rays have large, flat tooth plates on both jaws that they use to crush hard-shelled prey.
Cownose rays have poisonous stingers, but even in large groups they’re shy and not threatening.
As this ray swims through the ocean, its wingtips often break the surface, resembling the dorsal fin of a shark, which sometimes causes alarm for swimmers. Occasionally, they jump out of the water and land with a loud smack, a behavior thought to be a territorial display.
SOURCE: 2006 Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation
Who is the Cownose Ray?
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rhinoptera bonasus, family Myliobatidae
DIET: clams, large snails, lobsters, oysters, crabs
SIZE: up to 7 feet from wingtip to wingtip
RANGE: Western Atlantic: southern New England to northern Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, migrating to Trinidad, Venezuela and Brazil
RELATIVES: bat rays, manta rays, stingrays, spotted eagle rays.
REDUCING THE RISK
*Always shuffle your feet when walking out to the surf. Stingrays are skittish creatures and will generally flutter away at the first sign of danger. The sting is a self-defense mechanism.
*If you do feel something soft and squishy under your foot, step off of it as quickly as possible. In other words, step lightly.
TREATING A STING
*Come to the beach as quickly as possible, but don’t panic because it will only increase your circulation, thus aiding in the movement of the toxin through your body. Also try to limit anything that may bring on symptoms of shock.
*Go to the nearest lifeguard or fire station to treat it.
*Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure with a clean cloth or whatever is available, such as a beach towel.
*If there is no pain, treat as a puncture wound or laceration by cleaning and disinfecting with soap and water.
*Soak the injury until it feels significantly better. The pain probably won’t go completely away, but it should feel dramatically better. A little swelling is normal.
*If there is pain, bleeding, or more than a minor wound, and symptoms such as faintness or sweating (which indicate that venom has been absorbed into the body), arrange for transportation to a medical facility.
*If it looks like the stingray barb is still in your foot, attempt to remove the stinger with tweezers to decrease toxin exposure or see a doctor for treatment.
SOURCES: surfline.com; webmd.com