This spectacle of nature will give you ray fever!
One of the joys of spending time in the great outdoors is the chance to witness wildlife in its natural habitat. But with more and more of that habitat under threat from pollution, over-fishing, deforestation and other human activities, these encounters happen less frequently.
Possibly due to warming waters, one exception to this is the golden cow-nosed stingray, whose numbers seem to be flourishing in the western Atlantic. During the species' biannual migration in late spring and late fall, it's possible to witness many thousands of them on the move.
A school of rays is called a fever. This particular species of ray can reach a wingspan of nearly four feet and weigh 50 pounds or more. They typically live up to 16 years for males and 18 years for females.
The animals mate in the winter and give birth to live young after an unusually long gestation period of 11 to 12 months.
They swim as far north as New England in the summer months to as far south as Brazil in the winter months. No lazing about on the sea bed for these world travellers!
As their name would imply, these stingrays have poisonous stingers with serrated edges and although the sting can be painful, it is not deadly to humans. Rays tend to be peaceful creatures and only sting when threatened.
Cow-nosed rays are easily recognizable because of their curved faces. From this perspective they look like they’re smiling as they make their journey.
This diver is slightly outnumbered! What a sight this must have been to have seen live.
They almost look like lilypads come to life.
A view from far above the water shows this group's vast numbers. Notice the one bottom right leaping from the water. Wow!
Although the golden cow-nose ray is not specifically under threat from fishing or habitat loss at the moment, all of nature is in a delicate balance and whether we'll continue to regularly see such a magnificent sight in the future is an open question. Mankind must find a way of using the earth's resources so that future generations can enjoy the wonders of the natural world.
Did these pictures give you ray fever?