Southern Stingray: Hypanus americanus

Family: Dasyatidae
Common name(s)

Southern Stingray.


A large stingray with a kite-shaped disc that is slightly wider than long; disc width approximately 1.2 x length. Snout obtusely angular with a slightly protruding tip. Anterior margins of disc mildly convex. Pectoral fin apexes narrowly rounded or angular. Pelvic fins small with tightly rounded apexes.
Eyes relatively large and protruding. Snout length less than 2x combined eye and spiracle length.
Mouth contains 3 oral papillae centrally and often with smaller papillae on each side. Deep labial furrows around mouth. Mouth weakly arched. Lower jaw mildly concave at symphysis. Skirt shaped nasal curtain with a strongly fringed margin.
Patches of dermal denticles present between eyes and along mid-disc. A row of small thornlets extend along midline to base of tail. Short row of thornlets on each shoulder. Tail tapers gently to caudal sting. Tail posterior to caudal sting covered in prickly denticles, filamentous to tip. Tail length (when intact) approximately 2.5 x disc width. Ventral finfold long and low; depth roughly equal to tail height. Dorsal finfold usually very low; often reduced to a ridge. One tail sting usually present.


Dorsum grey or greyish-brown, often with slightly dusky areas between and below eyes. Ventrum white, usually with a dusky disc margin. Tail beyond caudal sting blackish. Ventral fin fold often pale with a dark lower margin.


Maximum disc width 150cm. Disc width at birth 17-19cm.


Tropical/sub-tropical seas. On sandy substrates, sea grass beds, and areas adjacent to reefs. From shallow estuarine environments to at least 100m.


Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Range extends from New Jersey in the USA to Amapá in northern Brazil.

Conservation Status


The southern stingray has considerable value through ecotourism interactions with tourists in some Caribbean Islands which may have negative consequences on individual rays. This species is targeted and captured as bycatch in artisanal trammel nets, gillnets, beach seines, and longlines, and in commercial trawl and longline fisheries. Although it is generally discarded alive with suspected high survivorship in US waters. It is caught as bycatch in the western Atlantic and is utilised, and even targeted, in artisanal fisheries across part of the southern portion of its range. In the Northwest Atlantic, the relative abundance time series based on Baited Remote Underwater Videos from 2009 to 2018 off Belize indicated that abundance increased over the time series at a rate of 9.6% per year. Landings data from Mexico from 2000 to 2014 suggests a general stable population (annual rate of change +0.5%). However, a trawl survey indicated a slight decline of 4.1% over one generation length (11 years). When all data sets are considered in the global analysis, the population was declining slightly (-0.1% per year). In Colombia, the Southern Stingray was nationally assessed as Near Threatened due to the level of exploitation and habitat degradation. Considering the relative area of habitat in Northwest Atlantic and Atlantic South America, Southern Stingray is suspected to have undergone a population reduction of 20–29% over the past three generation lengths (32 years), and it is assessed as Near Threatened (nearly meeting Vulnerable A2d).


Carlson, J., Charvet, P., Blanco-Parra, MP, Briones Bell-lloch, A., Cardenosa, D., Derrick, D., Espinoza, E., Morales-Saldaña, J.M., Naranjo-Elizondo, B., Pacoureau, N., Schneider, E.V.C., Simpson, N.J., Pollom, R. & Dulvy, N.K. 2020. Hypanus americanusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T181244884A104123787. Downloaded on 16 February 2021.


Matrotrophic aplacental viviparity. 2-7 pups per litter. Gestation 5-8 months in captivity.


Diet consists mainly of crustaceans.


Spends much of the day resting on the substrate. Excavates large depressions in the sand to capture invertebrates.

Reaction to divers

Shy if unaccustomed to divers, otherwise fairly nonchalant allowing long observations unless approached too closely. Easily habituated, will aggressively seek food carried by divers and snorkellers; nibbling fingers with powerful jaws.

Diving logistics

Southern stingrays are extremely common at numerous dive sites in Florida, The Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean. Organized feeds or areas where snorkellers bring bait are commonplace.

Arguably the most famous stingray feed in the Americas. Scores of southern stingrays congregate in a shallow bay called North Sound on the north side of Grand Cayman. Each day, about a dozen tourist boats run out to Stingray Sandbar for snorkelers, or Stingray City; a slightly deeper site for divers. The rays at these sites aggressively seek out the food on offer but they rarely attempt to use their barbs, even if accidentally stepped on.

Located at the north end of Gun Cay near Bimini, this shallow spot attracts day trippers from Bimini and private yachts. The stingrays hand out next to the beach and will approach any snorkelers that enter the water with a snack for them. In slightly deeper water, this is also a very good spot to encounter blacknose sharks.

This spot is apparently very similar to Honeymoon Harbour but is situated near Great Abaco Island.

Similar species

Atlantic Stingray Distinguished by small size and elongated, more acutely pointed snout.

Roughtail Stingray Distinguished by lack of thorns on shoulders and tail densely covered in large thorns.