Blotched Fantail Ray, Blotched Stingray, Blotched/Marbled Ribbontail Ray.
A very large stingray with a sub-circular disc that is very slightly wider than long. Snout short, and obtusely angular/broadly rounded, with a small, protruding apical lobe at tip. Anterior margins of disc convex. Pectoral fin apices broadly rounded. Pelvic fins very short.
Eyes small. Snout length approximately 2x combined eye and spiracle length. Mouth wide with 7 short oral papillae. Lower jaw convex. Labial furrows weak. Skirt-shaped nasal curtain short, wide, short fringe on posterior margin. Nostrils large and oval.
Disc covered in small granular denticles. Thornlets present in small patches on each shoulder and in a thin band along midline. Tail wide-based and short; slightly longer than disc width. Tail tapers to caudal sting then thin to tip. Ventral finfold extends to tip of tail; finfold height 2-3 x tail height posterior to caudal sting. Dorsal finfold absent. One caudal sting usually present.
Dorsum grey with varying amounts of dark grey and black blotches and mottling. Ventrum pale with a wide, dusky or mottled margin. Tail beyond caudal sting black. Ventral finfold dark.
Maximum disc width 180cm. Disc width at birth 30-35cm.
Tropical seas and warm-temperate seas. On sandy substrates, reef rubble, rocky reefs, and in caves. Usually found inshore but maximum recorded depth 400m.
Widespread in the Indo-Pacific. South Africa and Madagascar northward along east Africa, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, India, and throughout southeast Asia from southern Japan to northern Australia.
There are also many observations at offshore islands and seamounts in the eastern Pacific but the EP population is now thought to be an as yet undescribed species (Peter Last personal correspondence).
There is little specific information on threats and catches in fisheries throughout much of the Blotched Fantail Ray’s range, but given the intense and unregulated fishing pressure known to exist on large batoid species across much of its range, particularly in Southeast Asia, the particular sensitivity of this species to various fishing methods, its limiting life history characteristics, and the general declining health of coral reef ecosystems (its main habitat) throughout its Indo-West Pacific distribution, the species is inferred to have undergone a decline in population size of at least 30% over the past three generations (65 years), and is therefore assessed globally as Vulnerable (VU A2d).
In Australia, this species is considered Least Concern due to protection afforded in marine parks and the effective use of turtle exclusion devices in northern Australian prawn trawl fisheries, which should limit the catch of the species there. Similarly, it is assessed as Least Concern in the Maldives where it has a high ecotourism value and is thus afforded protection through the prohibition of the export of rays and ray products.
Kyne, P.M. & White, W.T. 2015. Taeniurops meyeni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T60162A68646736. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T60162A68646736.en. Downloaded on 25 February 2021.
Matrotrophic viviparity. Litter size up to 7 pups.
The blotched stingray feeds on small benthic fishes and invertebrates.
Sedentary. Often rests under ledges and in caves during the day.
Reaction to divers
Quite easy to approach but will retreat if harassed.
The Blotched Stingray is a common ray throughout its range. I have encountered this species in Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, The Philippines, and (possibly a different closely related species) in French Polynesia, Cocos, Malpelo, and the Galapagos Islands. Assuming it is the species, blotched fantail rays are extremely abundant at Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica, where many can be seen on a single dive.