Yellow Stingray: Urobatis jamaicensis

Family: Urotrygonidae
Common name(s)

Yellow Stingray, Yellow Spotted Stingray, Yellow Round Ray.


A large round stingray with a sub-circular disc that is approximately longer than wide. Snout bluntly angular. Anterior margins of disc almost weakly convex, apices evenly rounded. Disc without thorns but with a narrow medial denticle band. Pelvic fins broadly rounded, length greatly exceeding width.
Eyes large; orbit length 0.47-0.55 x snout length. Mouth weakly arched. Nasal curtain skirt-shaped. Nostrils slit-like.
Tail short and broad based, with lateral skin folds that form a long overhanging ridge. Tail short, length 48-52% of total length. Caudal sting short, set far back on tail, its length slightly longer than caudal fin. Caudal fin relatively short and high, with a high upper lobe and a bluntly rounded posterior margin.


Dorsal coloration variable. Often beige with a dense covering of small greenish yellow spots or reticulations. Clusters of spots form larger light spots or weak ocelli. A black form with small orange spots is less common. Ventrum variably greenish, brownish, or yellowish with small dark spots on disc margin and tail.
Colour variation appears to be a response to environmental conditions. I have only seen the black form once in a silty mangrove lagoon in Utila. Whereas, on the white sand beaches in the Cayman Islands, yellow stingrays are extremely pale with barely discernible markings.


Total length 76cm. Length at birth approximately 6cm.


Warm temperate / tropical seas. Shallow sandy bay near coral reefs, muddy lagoons, on reef rubble, and around seagrass beds. Usually in shallow water close to shore but recorded to 70m


Western Atlantic. The yellow stingray is found from North Carolina to the Guyanas including the Caribbean island chain and Gulf of Mexico.

Conservation Status


The yellow stingray faces considerable threat from habitat degradation and loss due to climate change as the species is dependent on coral reef and seagrass habitats (Ward-Paige et al. 2011). This species is threatened by artisanal fisheries exploitation for food and for use as bait in parts of its range in some central American countries. The Yellow Stingray is occasionally collected for use in personal aquariums. This species may also decline due to recovery of their predators such as the Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in Florida (Ward-Paige et al. 2011).


Carlson, J., Charvet, P., Crysler, Z., Blanco-Parra, MP, Briones Bell-lloch, A., Cardenosa, D., Derrick, D., Espinoza, E., Herman, K., Morales-Saldaña, J.M., Naranjo-Elizondo, B., Pérez Jiménez, J.C., Schneider, E.V.C., Simpson, N.J., Talwar, B.S. & Dulvy, N.K. 2020. Urobatis jamaicensisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T60109A124438908. Downloaded on 03 April 2021.K.2015-4.RLTS.T60108A80677446.en. Downloaded on 30 March 2021.


Aplacental viviparous. 2 litters of 2-5 pups yearly.


Small bony fishes and benthic invertebrates.


Non-migratory. In the Cayman Islands, yellow stingrays move into the intertidal zone to feed during high tide.

Reaction to divers

Somewhat skittish but sometimes initially tolerant of divers and snorkelers if approached carefully.

Diving logistics

Yellow stingrays are abundant throughout much of the Caribbean. They can be observed virtually anywhere by snorkelling around the edges of inshore reefs.

The black form of yellow stingray (see notes on colour) is probably confined to silty, turbid lagoons. I came across this form while snorkelling in the mangrove at Oyster Bed Lagoon, next to Deep Blue Resort in Utila, Honduras.

Similar species

No other intricately patterned urobatid rays occur in the western Atlantic.