Excellent Sense of Smell and Touch
A cow goes “Moooo”, wait… this isn’t a cow, but it sure does look like one. Cownose rays get their name from the unique look of their forehead, which looks like the nose of a cow! This cute sting ray has a light brown or olive colored hue on its back and a pale white belly. If you look at a Cownose from the bottom it looks like it is smiling at you! The Cownose is also unique in that its tail can be twice the length of its body. Cownose rays are closely related to sharks and skates and are in the same family as manta rays and bat rays.
Cownose rays appear in many parts of the Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern part of the ocean they are known to live off the coast of Africa near the equator. In the western part of the Atlantic Ocean, Cownose rays live anywhere from New England to Florida. They are also known to live in the Gulf of Mexico and off the northern coast of South America. The Cownose ray will migrate very long distances and are known to travel in groups called schools.
Cownose rays are very cute and friendly however, take great care if you see one in the water. The Cownose ray has a long tail with a stinger spine near the ray’s body to protect itself from predators. These stingers are loaded with poison so remember to always treat a ray with kindness and respect if you see one!
These rays hunt for food in a unique way. A Cownose ray has a very powerful sense of smell and touch and has electroreceptors on their snouts to help them locate their food. The diet of a Cownose is primarily hard-shelled mollusks and they will skim the ground searching for these creatures. Once the Ray has found the mollusk of choice it will begin to flap its wings to push sand aside and suck water and sand through its gills to create a depression in the sand and scoop up the Mollusk! Because these mollusk shells are so hard, Cownose rays have developed very strong teeth that are arranged together in flat plates, perfect for crunching! They ray will then spit out the shell of the mollusk it eats.
The Cownose ray is listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN Red List meaning, the Cownose ray is getting closer and closer to being in danger of extinction. Currently there are no policies that promote the conservation of this animal. One thing you can do to help prevent the continued endangerment of the Cownose ray is to be aware if you are in water where there may be a school of Cownose rays, try to avoid disruption of this unique creature and treat it with respect.
- The Cownose ray’s skin is completely smooth
- Cownose rays can often be seen and touched in aquariums
- Adult Cownose rays can reach lengths between 2 and 3 feet wide
- Cownose rays are ovoviviparous, meaning eggs develop and are hatched within the body of the mother.
- Cownose rays are generally only born one at a time, just like humans
- These rays are very active and are rarely seen sitting still