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The common stingray, Dasyatis pastinaca, is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, native to the northeast Atlantic Oceanmarker and the Mediterranean Seamarker. It is usually encountered over sand or mud in calm, shallow waters, where it hunts for bottom-dwelling crustaceans, fishes, and mollusks. This species is not targeted by commercial fisheries, though it is taken as bycatch. The poisonous spine on its tail is capable of inflicting a very painful wound.

The blue stingray (Dasyatis chrysonota) of southern Africa was once considered to be conspecific with the common stingray. However, the common stingray lacks the blue pattern of the blue stingray and differs in morphological and meristic characteristics, which led the latter to be classified as a separate species in 1993. The specific epithet pastinaca means "turnip" or "parsnip".

Distribution and habitat

This species occurs in the northeastern Atlantic from southern Norwaymarker and the western Baltic Seamarker to Madeiramarker and the Canary Islandsmarker, including the English Channelmarker, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Seamarker. It frequents sandy or muddy bottoms, often half-buried in the substrate, and near rocky reefs. It is usually found shallower than 60 meters (197 ft), though it has been reported to a depth of 200 meters (656 ft). It is also tolerant of low salinity and may be found in estuaries.

Description

Underside of a common stingray.
This species has a flattened pectoral fin disk slightly wider than it is long, with straight front margins and rounded angles. The snout is fairly pointed; the eyes are smaller than the spiracles, which are placed closely behind. There are 28-38 rows of small, blunt teeth in the upper jaw and 28-43 rows of teeth in the lower; five papillae are present on the floor of the mouth.

There are no dorsal fins. The tail is long and slender, measuring approximately 1.5 times as long as the disk and bearing low cutaneous folds on the upper and lower surfaces. There is one strongly serrated spine about a third of the distance along the tail, which can measure up to 35 cm long and contains a poison gland at its base. Individuals may be found with two spines, if they have developed a replacement spine before the old spine has dropped off.

The skin is smooth save for a few dermal denticles on the leading edge of the disk; some older fish have a row of bony knobs along the midline of the body. The coloration is grey, brown, reddish, or olive-green above, and whitish below with dark disk margins. Young individuals may have white spots. It may grow up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) long and 1.4 meters (4.6 ft) wide.

Biology and ecology

Common stingray lying on sand.
The common stingray feeds on a wide variety of benthic organisms, including fishes, crustaceans, and molluscs. They are reported to be highly destructive on shellfish culturing beds. Off the coast of Cilicia, Turkeymarker, their diet is comprised mostly of the penaeid shrimp Metapenaeus stebbingis, followed by the pistol shrimp Alpheus glaber and the swimming crab Charybdis longicollis; cephalopods are also important prey items for males, while bony fishes are important prey for females. Common stingrays have been observed following each other closely in the presence of food; this behavior may be related to opportunistic feeding.

Like other stingrays, the common stingray is ovoviviparous. Females give birth to 4-9 young twice a year, after a gestation period of four months. Parturition occurs in summer, from May to September. Females are larger than males of equivalent age; males mature at about 43-45 cm (17-18 in) long and females at 46-49 cm (18-19 in). Their lifespans are at least ten years. Known parasites of the common stingray include the fluke Heterocotyle pastinacae and Entobdella diadema, and the tapeworm Scalithrium minimum.

Relationship to humans

Common stingray at the NausicaƤ Centre National de la Mer.
The common stingray does not pose a substantial danger to humans, though severe wounds to bathers and fishers have resulted from its spine. Francis Day, in The Fishes of Great Britain and Ireland (1884), noted that the flesh of this ray was "rank and disagreeable", and that Welshmarker fishermen used its liver oil as a treatment for burns and other wounds.

This species was known as trygon to the ancient Greeks and as pastinaca to the ancient Roman; several classical authors make notes of the supposed toxicity of its tail spine. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder claimed that the spine of this ray was capable of killing trees, piercing armor like an arrow, and corroding iron. Aelian asserted that the wound caused by the stingray was incurable. In mythology, Hercules was said to have lost a finger to the bite of a stingray, and Circe was said to have armed her son Telegonus with a spear tipped with a stingray spine, with which he accidentally slew his father, Odysseus.

Gastronomy

The common stingray is occasionally taken as bycatch in bottom trawl and gillnet fisheries. Its wings are marketed smoked or dried and salted, and it is also used for fishmeal and liver oil. The World Conservation Union has assessed this species as Near Threatened in the Mediterranean.

Traditionally the stingray was valued as food.The liver was used to prepare delicacies such as "beignets de foie de raie" and "foie de raie en croute" in French cuisine.

References

  1. Murch, A. Common stingray Dasyatis pastinaca information and pictures. Elasmodiver.com. Retrieved on February 28, 2009.
  2. La raie
  3. Calvin W. Schwabe Unmentionable Cuisine



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