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Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari) with approx. 7+ feet wingspan and 20+ feet tail - swimming in 10 feet of water 100 yards off beach.
Inshore Waters, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida. 25.125, -80.405
The spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) is a cartilaginous fish of the eagle ray family, Myliobatidae. It can be found globally in tropical regions, including the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, off the coast of West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Oceania, and on both coasts of the Americas at depths down to about 80 meters (262 ft). The rays are most commonly seen alone, but occasionally swim in groups. Rays are ovoviviparous, the female retaining the eggs then releasing the young as miniature versions of the parent. This ray can be identified by its dark dorsal surface covered in white spots or rings. Near the base of the ray's relatively long tail, just behind the pelvic fins, are several venomous, barbed stingers. Spotted eagle rays commonly feed on small fish and crustaceans, and will sometimes dig with their snouts to look for food buried in the sand of the sea bed. These rays are commonly observed leaping out of the water. Spotted eagle rays have flat disk-shaped bodies, deep blue or black with white spots on top with a white underbelly, and distinctive flat snouts similar to a duck's bill. Their tails are longer than those of other rays and may have 2–6 venomous spines, just behind the pelvic fins. The front half of the long and wing-like pectoral disk has five small gills in its underside. Mature spotted eagle rays can be up to 5 meters (16 ft) in length; the largest have a wingspan of up to 3 meters (10 ft) and a mass of 230 kilograms (507 lb). Spotted eagle rays are found globally in tropical regions, including the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, Atlantic Africa, the Indian Ocean, Oceania, and the Pacific west coast. They are found in shallow coastal water by coral reefs and bays, in depths down to 80 meters (262 ft). Spotted eagle rays are found in warm, temperate, waters worldwide; in the West-Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and down to Florida, in the Gulf Stream, in the Caribbean, and down past the southern part of Brazil. In the West-Pacific Ocean, it can be found from the Red Sea to South Africa and also in northern Japan and Australia. The ray can also be found in the Eastern-Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California down through Puerto Pizarro, an area that includes the Galapagos Islands. (credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_eag...)