Southern stingray

Hypanus americanus

Type: Fish - Ray Litter size: 2 to 7 Other common names: Whip stingray Life span: 17 years Diet description: Shrimps, crabs, worms, small fish Max width: 1.5 metres Habitat and range: Sandy, coastal habitats of the tropical west Atlantic Relative size: Image IUCN status: Near threatened (NT) - Decreasing population Near threatened (NT)
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Southern stingrays have quite the stereotypical ray appearance. They are generally grey or brown on top, with a white underside. Their body is a flattened diamond shape as opposed to the rounded disc of many other ray species. They have a clear spine partway down the long tail, and the tail is rounded before the spine and flattened after it.

Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai © Save Our Seas Foundation
Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai © Save Our Seas Foundation

Special behaviour

Southern stingrays are able to bury themselves in sand to hide from predators, and will defend themselves using their venomous barb, which they can thrash over their head much like a scorpion.


Southern stingrays are ovoviviparous, meaning eggs develop and hatch internally, with the embryos sustained by a yolk sac. Litter sizes are relatively small (only 2 to 7 pups at a time), with gestation taking up to eight months. Females appear to produce litters every other year. Females mature at five years or older, at a size of approximately 0.8 m disc-width.

Habitat and geographical range

Southern stingrays can be found throughout shallow coastal waters of the western Atlantic from the USA to Brazil, but in particular in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They are most common in sandy habitats associated with mangroves, coral reefs and estuaries.



Primarily a nocturnal feeder, southern stingrays feed on a variety of prey such as worms, shrimps, crabs and small fish.


Southern stingrays are primarily threatened by overfishing. They are commonly caught in artisanal net and line fisheries, in some locations (e.g. Mexico) making up to 90% of the catch. Their meat is often used for food and bait, and they are typically released alive in the USA. They are also susceptible to habitat loss due to coastal development. Although there is evidence of population stability in some regions, they are estimated to have experienced population declines in the region of 20–29% overall, with a subsequent categorisation as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Intense tourism is also of growing concern: for example there is evidence from the Cayman Islands that regular feeding has resulted in changes to feeding habitats, susceptibility to parasites and predation, and shifts from being active at night to the day.

Relationship with humans

Southern stingrays are a strong attraction for tourists who can enjoy close encounters in shallow waters without needing to snorkel or scuba dive. This can provide a valuable non-consumptive alternative to exploiting stingrays in fisheries, but still needs to be done responsibly as evidence shows that in locations with intense operations the stingrays’ behaviour and health can be substantially affected. Accidentally stepping on a ray could result in a sting of self defense that is usually painful but not dangerous. Where fished, stingray meat is consumed and used for bait, and in some areas their spines are used to make knives, spears and other tools.


Peter Last, et al, 2016, Rays of the World.

Florida Museum, Dasyatis Americana

Oceana, Southern Stingray

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Southern Stingray: Dasyatis Americana

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