The family of rays

The family of rays

Rays are found in seas and oceans all over the world. There are over 500 species of rays, most of which can be found dominating the sea bed. They have flat bodies so they can conceal themselves in the sand easily and attack unsuspecting prey. Most species of stingray have 5 gill slits and their eyes are on the top of its body. Rays are distant cousins to sharks so have some similar qualities. For example, rays and sharks use smell and electroreceptors to hunt their prey; this is particularly true for rays because the position of their eyes makes it difficult for them to see their prey.  It is a common misconception that rays, like the sting ray are dangerous. However they rarely attack people and only use their stinger when they are being attacked by a predator or stepped on.

There are so many types of rays, but some are special to The Red Sea; here is a list of the rays that can be seen in The Red Sea.

The Blue spotted stingray is very common in the Red Sea. This colorful stingray has bright blue spots covering its body and blue stripes along its tail.  They reach a maximum length of 70 meters. They are usually found in sandy patches or on shallow reefs and commonly found sheltering under a coral overhang.

The Feather tailed stingray is found around Abu Dabbab and is usually spotted close to mangroves or in lagoons. It got its name because of its ‘flag-like’ fold on its tail.  It is a brownish color and typically reaches 2 meters long. This stingray has a particularly long tail that can reach over its body and sting an attacker from in front of it.

The Scalloped torpedo ray has white and brown spots on its body and is circular rather than oval shaped.  It is often found in shallow water. It is a solitary ray and feeds on bony fish.  This ray has a unique ability, it can give off an electric shock when attacked or threatened, so make sure you don’t step on this one. It can shock up to 200 volts!

Round Fantail stingray, also known locally as a sand ray, is found in the Red Sea close to Marsa Alam. It is poorly known despite its high population in and around the reefs in Marsa Alam. It grows to around 1 meter and it has a circular pectoral fin. It can also weigh up to 150kg! 

The eagle ray can reach 3 meters long and is usually black with irregular white spots on its upper body (The spotted eagle ray). They are not typically found on the sea bed like stingrays but rather at the edge of outer reefs or in lagoons, this is because they tend to live in the open ocean. They can be distinguished from other rays because their tails are longer.  The spotted eagle ray is by far one of the most beautiful with its star shaped white spots and inky blue bodies. They can often be spotted in small schools in the open sea. They can even sometimes jump out of the water!

The manta ray is the biggest of all the rays and is very rare in the Red Sea.  It can grow to over 7 meters and is a phenomenal sight to see gliding through the waters.  They are very graceful and do not have a barb like stingrays so therefore can’t sting you. They are filter feeders and feed on plankton and other small fish.  If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of this incredible ray at a cleaning station on a reef. Spotting a manta ray is an experience of a lifetime for all divers!