About the Stingrays of Stingray City

Whether you’ve yet to visit the world famous Stingray City, or whether you’re already familiar with this amazing experience, it’s always nice to know a little more about out stingray friends. So, here is Moby Dick Tours’ guide to the stingrays of Grand Cayman.

Our staff are all very knowledgeable about stingrays and their marine environment, and will be happy to tell you everything you want to know when you visit us. But in the meantime, here’s a little background reading 🙂

Stingrays are in fact a type of fish, loosely related to sharks. There are eight ‘families’ (classifications) of stingray, and many different species. The ‘Southern Stingray’ Dasyatis americana is the one you will meet at Stingray City, here is its full classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Chondrichthyes
  • Subclass: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Myliobatiformes
  • Family: Dasyatidae
  • Genus: Dasyatis
  • Species: D. americana
Stingrays of Stingray City

Stingray City with Moby Dick Tours

Stingrays have beautiful wide, flat bodies, adapted to help them conceal themselves from predators. They do this by lying on sandy sea beds and wriggling until they are covered by a layer of sand – a fantastic hiding place!

Their other main defence against predators (sharks, seals, large carnivorous fish) is their ‘stinger’, a bony spike halfway down the top of their tails, which gives them their name. But don’t be put off, stingrays are docile and curious animals, and are not naturally aggressive – they will simply swim away from you rather than start a fight! And this is where Grand Cayman’s Stingray City is so fantastic: we have a family (as in they are related) of stingrays, who have grown used to the presence of humans over many years, and are perfectly at ease with us. All you need to think about is not to get too excited when you are in the water with them, and kick their stinger barb by accident – they are perfectly friendly, and will brush their bodies against you as they swim past to get to know you better!

Stingrays have their eyes on the tops of their bodies, and their mouths on the underside. This means they can’t actually see what they are eating. Instead they have a fantastic sense of smell and an electronic ‘supersense’ to guide them to their prey. When you visit stingray city, you’ll find that our stingray friends are very good at sucking a juicy piece of squid right out of your hands – just remember not to keep any pieces of squid in your shorts pockets!

Of all the different types of stingray, the southern stingrays of stingray city are well adapted to living on the sea bed, and the soft sand at the Stingray City sandbar is just perfect for them. You’ll see how they just love to glide gracefully over the sand in the warm waist-deep water as you stand and watch them.

The southern stingray’s body is a flat, diamond shaped wing, with slightly sharper corners than those of other types of stingray. The grey stingrays you will see are the youngsters – not fully matured – whilst the adults are more olive green and brown in colour. In all cases, the underside of a southern stingray is nearly white, and soft to the touch like a Portobello mushroom – and our stingray friends just love to be caressed!

Like other types of fish, stingrays ‘breath’ by filtering oxygen from the water. They suck in water through openings near their eyes called ‘spiracles’ (clever, as this means they can breathe freely even when lying on the seabed). The used water is then passed out through gills on the stingrays’ underside.

Stingrays of Stingray CityNormally, southern stingrays’ diet is one of small fish, worms and crustaceans, which they forage for as they swim with a wave-like motion across the sea bed. This disruption of the seabed helps other fish find their food as well, so you’ll often see them swimming along with the stingrays. Stingrays are clever animals, however, and in Grand Cayman, they know that a free meal of squid (their favourite) is waiting for them at Stingray City. And that’s the deal – we feed them, and they are happy to play with us!

You’ll see small and large stingrays at Stingray City – the large ones are the females! Little is known about the way in which stingrays mate, but we do know that the male has two penises! Stingrays become sexually mature after approximately 3 to 4 years in the case of males, perhaps slightly longer for females. Once pregnant, the gestation period has been noted (for captive stingrays) to last between 135 and 226 days, before a litter of up to ten babies are born.

Stingrays live for between 15 and 25 years, and sadly are considered to be threatened species. The people of the Cayman Islands are therefore very proud of Stingray City, as not only is it an important tourist attraction for the country, but it also acts as an important means of conservation for these beautiful, graceful creatures.

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