Mass Migration of StingraysMass Migration of Stingrays
Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea, thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico . The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.
Gliding silently beneath the waves, they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks. She said: 'It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.
They migrate twice yearly: north in late spring (as pictured here) and south in late autumn.
There are around 70 species of stingray in the world's oceans, but these cow-nose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) have distinctive, highdomed heads, giving them a curiously bovine appearance.
But despite their placid looks, they are still armed with a poisonous stinger, which can be deadly to humans (even though sharks, their main predators, are more likely to provoke them).
The stinger, a razor-sharp spine that grows from the creature's whip-like tail, can reach almost 15 inches in length and carries a heady dose of venom.
It was a similar stinger that killed the hugely popular Australian naturalist Steve Irwin in 2006.
But even equipped with this powerful punch, cow-nose stingrays are shy and non-threatening in large 'fevers'. Even when isolated, they will attack only when cornered or threatened.
Unlike other stingrays, they rarely rest on the seabed (where unsuspecting humans can step on them) and prefer to be on the move.
They migrate long distances, and can be found as far south as the Caribbean and as far north as New England.
They use their extended pectoral fins to swim, and often turn upside down, curling their fin tips above the surface of the water - leaving terrified swimmers convinced that they have seen a shark.
Their flexible fins also come in handy when rustling up food. By flapping them rapidly over the seabed, they stir up sand and reveal crabs, shellfish and oysters, which they then feed on using their powerful, grinding teeth.
Their particular fondness for shellfish has made them public enemy number one with oyster fishermen.
But despite this, their numbers are exploding, thanks in part to rising sea temperatures. They mate every winter, and females produce a litter of five to ten young
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