Eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) are cartilaginous fish that live in groups and inhabit sandy bottoms at depths of up to 200 meters in the Atlantic, Pacific, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean.
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Like other species of rays, they have a flattened rhomboid-shaped body, long tails, and can reach lengths of up to 185 centimeters, including the tail, and weigh up to 15 kilograms. The skin of eagle rays ranges from brown to black, with mottled patterns and bright colors on the dorsal side and completely white on the ventral side.
These rays have a curious and prominent snout or nose that they use to stir up sandy bottoms and extract their prey from their hiding places. Their lower jaw is composed of 7 rows of teeth that they use to break the tough shells of crustaceans and mollusks, although they also prey on small fish and invertebrates. Their feeding behavior is one of the differences they exhibit compared to other species like manta rays or devil rays, which feed by filtering plankton.
Although they are not aggressive towards divers, it's important to maintain a safe distance from these fish: the venomous spines on their tail can deliver a highly irritating sting that is best avoided. There have even been cases of fatalities from the sting of this animal, although it's a defense mechanism and is only used when they feel threatened.
The locomotion system of eagle rays differs from other rays that perform undulating movements. These rays move their pectoral fins simultaneously, in the same way that birds flap their wings to fly, allowing them to be faster than other ray species. They are so fast and powerful that they can leap or "fly" out of the water's surface.
The IUCN considers this species to have a low risk of extinction, although they are fished, mainly in Southeast Asia and Africa, both for sale in aquariums and as bycatch through trawl fishing. Among their natural predators are different species of sharks.