Southern stingrays, Dasyatis americana, are benthic elasmobranchs, spending most (but not all, as seen in the video) of their time on the bottom in sandy areas. They have 1 or 2 venomous spines on their tails which are used for defense only. They are common in the Caribbean but also found in the Gulf of Mexico and in Atlantic waters north to New Jersey and south to Brazil. They are members of Family Dasyatidae (stingrays).
|A diver feeds a Southern stingray|
Photo: Greg Derr | The Patriot Ledger
Cownose rays, Rhinoptera bonasus, are pelagic elasmobranchs, swimming mainly in the water column but descending to the ocean floor to feed on invertebrates. They get their name from their cow-like snouts, and although they are in a different family from the southern stingray, they too have venomous spine(s) on their tails. They formerly were classified in Family Myliobatidae (eagle rays) but now are members of Family Rhinopteridae (cownose rays).
|A diver feeds cownose rays|
A common question we get is "Aren't you afraid of getting stung by the stingrays?" Now, like I said, these spines are only used for defense, not for attacking other fish or divers. But, for diver safety purposes, we trim down these spines by clipping them once or twice per year, to prevent any accidents from occurring... some divers have less buoyancy control than others ;)