Saturday, August 10, 2013

Spotted Eagle Ray flies through the water in Hawaii...

Earlier this summer, Rick, Matty and I visited Hawaii for the first time. We stayed on Maui and loved every minute we were there. We saw many new bird species, and through snorkeling (another first for me), we were introduced to a whole new world of tropical fish...

A Spotted Eagle Ray swims through the warm and clear waters off Maui.
I should mention I didn't see this fellow while I was snorkeling. I saw him from our hotel balcony. It was our last day, and before we had to leave I looked down at the ocean one last time. I was shocked to see this huge Spotted Eagle Ray "flying" by in the water. Of course, it only looked like he was flying. He was swimming, but the way he slowly moved his fins up and down in the water reminded me of the graceful flight of a heron.

This was the first time I had ever seen a Spotted Eagle Ray, and I had no idea rays could be so big. Considering I was on the fifth floor of a hotel perched on a cliff 30 or 40 feet above the water, you can start to get an idea of how big he was. After doing a bit of research, I learned a Spotted Eagle Ray's "wingspan" can reach up to nine feet. The length from his nose to the end of his pelvic fins can span eight feet, and he can weigh up to 500 pounds. The tail floating behind him in the water can easily be 28 feet long...

Spotted Eagle Rays are not small fish. They can weigh up to 500 pounds and have a nine-foot "wingspan."
Spotted Eagle Rays are cartilaginous fish (chondrichthyes) and therefore have no bones, only cartilage. They fall into the same subclass as sharks (click here for details on chondrichthyes). Spotted Eagle Rays are easy to spot and identify by the white spots on their dark dorsal surface. They have several barbed, venomous spines or stingers just behind the pelvic fins, under the tail. Their snouts are distinctive and almost resemble a duck's bill. Click here for information from the Florida Museum of Natural History on this beautiful ray. You'll find cool close-up photos and an incredible view of the Spotted Eagle Ray's unique snout.

A Spotted Eagle Ray's tail can be up to 28 feet long. didn't take this fellow long to "fly" out of view. It's easy to see why he has the common name of Spotted Eagle Ray.

Click here to see a video showcasing the graceful "flight" of the beautiful ray under water.

Click here for additional information on Spotted Eagle Rays, including personal accounts of researchers studying the rays.