A Prickly Character
Soneva Jani reef and lagoon is full of beautiful and amazing rays but so far this character is an instant favourite. This is the FIRST time I’ve ever seen this ray! She is a porcupine ray (Urogymnus asperrimus) a rare and little understood species of stingray. She doesn’t have the usual barb on her tail for defense instead she has spiky projections across the dorsal surface of her body, running all down her tail. She has a beautiful grey colour with white spots like paint flecks helping to camouflage her into the sandy bottom.
Porcupine rays are partial to a bit of digging in the sand for food, enjoying the delights of worms, crustaceans and small bony fish. Adults can be found on sandy flats, around coral rubble, sea grass beds, coral reefs and can enter brackish waters (almost all of which we have, hooray!). Young rays use our mangroves as shelter, I’m keeping my fins crossed we will see more on our reefs.
Unfortunately my new prickly friend is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Globally porcupine rays are caught as by-catch in trawling, tangle nets and beach seine nets. They are also targeted for their thick skin, meat and cartilage. All of which has seen a decline in their numbers before we even know enough about them! When you come for a visit you’ll find me hanging out in the ocean looking for more of these stunners, you’re welcome to join me!
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