We are getting near to the end of this Daily Doodle year and I haven't even painted a bat ray!! In case I haven't gushed to you about bat rays, they are so super sweet, and I am not even ashamed to say I would rather pet a bat ray than look at a penguin. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm basically Moana's grandmother when it comes to bat ray tanks! So, lets find out more about these adorable creatures, shall we?!
Myliobatis californica, commonly known as bat rays, are found in shallow waters and coral reefs from Oregon to the Sea of Cortez. Bat ray fossils have been discovered in Pliocene deposits dating back 1 million years. The origin of the name "bat ray" was given by Gill in 1865 because of their pectoral fins which resemble bat wings.
Bat rays are found living close to the shores of bays, sloughs, kelp beds and coral reefs. Bat rays prefer to live in areas with sandy or muddy bottoms as it allows easier access to food. They are most commonly found in depths reaching between 3m and 12m but have occasionally been spotted as deep as 46m.
Bat rays are commonly distinguished from other rays because of their distinct, protruding head and large eyes. UCLA marine biologist Laura Jordan says even though she was stung and has the corresponding scar from a young bat ray she still remains fond of the creatures, stating, “Bat rays are one of the cutest species. They’re appealing because they have a little bit more of a face than the others.” Fish biologist Milton Love, author of Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast, calls them “unbearably endearing creatures.”
Bat rays have a flat body with a dorsal fin at the base of the tail. The tail is whiplike and can be as long or longer than the width of the body. It is armed with a barbed stinger that is venomous. Bat rays are named for their two long pectoral fins that are shaped like the wings of a bat. The skin is smooth, dark brown or black and has no markings, and a white underbelly. The skeleton is made of cartilage, instead of bone. Bat rays are usually born measuring 11.4 inches and can grow to reach 5.9 feet. Females are typically larger than males and have been found weighing up to 200 pounds, though they are commonly only
Bat Rays are usually solitary animals but have been seen swimming in groups of thousands. They also swim with other rays from the same family (eagle ray). Females stick together and usually live where large amounts of food are found. Bat Rays move around a lot, even during copulation, and are noted for their ability to "jump out of water" and skim along the surface for several seconds. This is often described as looking like "flying".
Bat rays are carnivorous and feed on a variety of mollusks, crustaceans, and small fishes. Diet varies with the abundance of prey locally. Juveniles eat primarily clams and shrimp. Adult bat rays eat larger prey, including larger clams, crabs, shrimp, and echiuranworms.
Bat rays reproduce on an annual cycle, usually copulating during the spring or summer of one year and then giving birth the following spring or summer. Bat rays reproduce in large mating aggregations with the females clustering in one area. Females may lie on top of one another, burying females that have already mated or those that are not sexually mature yet. This allows less confusion for the males to pick a suitable mate.
The gestation period is between 8-12 months and the number of live young born depends upon the size of the mother. Females of 50 to 60 pounds usually have two to four young; whereas, females of 130 to 140 pounds may have 10 or 12 young. The female enters a bay area to deliver in an effort to protect from larger predators in the ocean and to allow access to a more stable food source. The young are born alive the following summer, are generally around 12 to 14 inches in width and weigh about 2 pounds. The young are always born tail-first with their wings rolled up over the body. Before bat rays are actually born, the stinger is pliable and has a sheath that is sloughed. It protects the mother from the dangerous stinger during delivery but is immediately lost at the time of delivery. The young pups do not require any parental care and are born with stingers ready to protect from predators. Bat rays reach sexual maturity around the age of 5 years, usually when they measure 67-68 cm from wing tip to wing tip. Bat rays have been known to live up to 23 years.