Photo: wrangel via Getty Images
Many creatures baffle and amaze us with their strange and seemingly impossible features in the ocean. One of these is the Devil Ray (giant devil ray). This creature is a wonder to behold with its wide wingspan and odd shape.
These shy fish are known for their aerial acrobatics and have been known to breach (jump out of the water) up to 6 m (20 ft).
When they're not flying through the air, devil rays can often be seen swimming on their sides near the water's surface with their mouths open, filter-feeding on tiny plankton and fish.
Let's take a closer look at this fantastic fish!
Description and Appearance
Photo: wrangel via Getty Images
The devil ray is a large and striking species of ray found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide.
Also known as giant devil rays, these animals are characterized by their wide, flat bodies and long, whip-like tails.
Devil rays get their name from their distinctive cephalic fins, which curl up into horns on either side of their head. These fins are used for navigation and sense prey, and they are one of the devil ray's most distinctive features.
In addition to their cephalic fins, devil rays also have large pectoral fins that help them to swim through the water. Their pelvic fins are much smaller and have a long, slender tails.
Devil rays can grow quite large, with some individuals reaching lengths of up to 6 meters (20 feet). They are generally gray or brown, with white spots or bands on their dorsal (upper) surface.
Devil rays are graceful swimmers, and they often breach the water's surface in a spectacular display. These animals are gentle giants, and they pose no threat to humans. However, they are sometimes caught as bycatch in fisheries, and they are also at risk from habitat loss and pollution.
Devil rays are filter feeders that primarily eat plankton. They swim with their mouths open, allowing water to flow through their gills and trapping microscopic organisms in their specialized filters. In addition to plankton, devil rays also consume small fish, squid, and crustaceans.
While hunting, devil rays will often work together in groups to flush prey out of hiding spots and into the open water. Devil rays typically eat around 10% of their body weight each day, meaning that a giant ray can consume up to 40 kg (90 lb.) of food in a single day.
While the vast majority of their diet is composed of tiny organisms, devil rays have occasionally hunted and eaten more oversized prey items such as sharks and turtles. However, these instances are rare, and most devil rays stick to a diet of small creatures.
Devil rays reproduce by process of internal fertilization called ovoviviparity.
The female devil ray gives birth to live young, which are nourished in the mother's uterus by a placental membrane.
The length of the gestation period varies depending on the devil ray species but is generally between 9 and 12 months. Devil rays are believed to have a relatively long lifespan, with some Individuals living for over 20 years.
Once born, young devil rays remain close to their mother for several months, gradually gaining independence as they mature.
Mating behavior has been observed in some species of devil rays, but little is known about the specifics of their reproductive cycles.
It is believed that devil rays’ mate seasonally, with peak breeding activity occurring in late summer and early autumn.
Distribution & Habitat
The devil ray is a large ray most commonly found in the Mediterranean Sea. However, they can also be located in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, off the southwest coast of Ireland and south of Portugal, and possibly in the northwest Atlantic.
In addition, they are present in several Mediterranean countries such as Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Turkey.
Devil rays predominantly prefer deep waters and can grow to a length of up to six feet. They are characterized by their large size, long pectoral fins, and horn-shaped dorsal fins.
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The devil ray is classified as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). This classification is given to species that are believed to be at risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. The devil ray is particularly vulnerable to overfishing, as it is often caught as a bycatch in fisheries targeting other species.
In addition, devil rays are usually harvested for their gill plates, which are used in Chinese traditional medicine. As a result of these threats, the global population of devil rays has declined by more than 50% over the past three generations. Conservation measures are desperately needed to protect this species from extinction.
Other Interesting Facts
The following are some other interesting facts about devil rays:
- Devil rays are sometimes called “flying rays” because of their habit of breaching the water's surface.
- These animals are gentle giants, and they pose no threat to humans.
- Apart from flying above the water, they are also deep divers and can reach depths of up to 3,000 feet.
- Devil rays are one of the few ray species known to migrate. They typically travel long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds.
- These animals are believed to be intelligent, and they have been known to use tools to capture prey.
Devil rays are some of the most unusual and lesser-known creatures in our oceans. These gentle giants are truly a sight to behold, and we hope this article has helped you understand a little more about them!
Their graceful movements and curious nature make them a fascinating group of animals to watch, and we encourage you to go out and see them for yourself if you ever have the chance. Remember, devil rays are at risk of extinction, so it’s essential to do what we can to protect them. You can help by supporting conservation efforts and spreading awareness about this unique species!