Rays, skates and stingrays are closely related to sharks. Just like sharks, they have cartilaginous skeletons and no swim bladders.
Rays live in fresh or salt water, depending on the species. At Newport Aquarium, you will see Orange Spotted and White spotted rays, both freshwater species; and Honeycomb Whiptail rays, Southern stingrays, and Cownose stingrays, all saltwater species.
Unlike sharks, the bodies of these fish tend to be flat and disc-like. This body shape makes them well suited for life on the bottom where the majority of these fish spend their lives.
A few species of rays (including cownose) spend most of their time swimming through the open water.
Unlike sharks, ray teeth are not sharp at all but are small and rounded. The teeth are well-suited for crushing the hard shells of crustaceans and mollusks on which rays primarily feed.
Manta rays do not feed on the bottom at all, but filter small plankton from the water as they swim.
Stingrays are aptly named, as these have a sharp, venomous spine or “stinger” on their tail. This spine is used for self-defense when a stingray feels threatened and cannot escape from a predator.
The edges of the spine are serrated with smaller rear-facing teeth allowing for the spine to inflict a deep injury and make removing the spine difficult. In addition, the underside of the spine has glandular tissue which coats the spine with venom. This venom is thought to affect nerves and tissue, and the injury can be very painful.
Reproduction in the rays consists of either oviparity or ovoviparity, both of which are discussed on our web page for sharks. Often, the large “mermaid purses” you find at the beach are the empty egg cases that once held baby rays.