Rays of Nosara
Stingrays, manta rays, and other rays like skates, electric rays, guitarfishes and sawfishes are classified as Batoidea, which basically means they are distant cousins of the shark. Rays come in all shapes and sizes. They inhabit all of earth’s oceans and can be found anywhere from the ocean floor to the ocean surface. The following is a few of the ray species that inhabit the waters around Nosara.
Giant Manta Ray
Just as its name suggests, the giant manta ray is the world’s largest ray with a wingspan of up to thirty feet. These enormous filter feeders spend their time languidly floating through the ocean, anywhere between a depth of 10 – 1000 meters, searching for zooplankton. Giant manta rays are slow-growing, migratory animals with small, highly fragmented populations distributed across the world. In addition to their size, manta rays are recognized by their bulky diamond-shaped torso with elongated wing-like pectoral fins, ventrally placed gill slits, wide mouths, and laterally positioned eyes. In front of the mouth, they have two cephalic lobes which extend and help to allow water into the mouth for feeding activities.
Manta rays come in two unique color types: chevron (mostly black back and white belly) and black (almost completely black on both sides). They also have distinguishable spots on their bellies. The giant manta ray is a migratory species, and seasonal visitor, and appears along the Guanacaste coastline in accordance with the movement of zooplankton, current circulation and tidal patterns, and mating behavior. Popular in Chinese medicine, Giant Mantas are becoming increasingly threatened. The main threat they face is commercial fishing, where they are both targeted, and caught as an unintentional byproduct. Their rapid demise is not appeased by their slow birth rates.
Different species of Eagle rays are found all over the world. However, in the tropical waters of Costa Rica they are particularly abundant. They can be found in large numbers in the waters of the Nicoya Peninsula, as well as in Osa Peninsula, Coco Island and the Caribbean coast. Here, they swim around the coral reefs. They can grow to a width of 3.5m, a length of nearly 9m from head to tail, and reach a weight of up to 230kg. They feed on shrimp, crabs, bivalves, annelids, octopus and small fish, and are thought to have a lifespan of 15-20 years.
These docile creatures are often misunderstood and categorized as dangerous, which is not really the case. While they do possess stings they generally do not attack. If threatened, their primary reaction is to swim away. However, a defensive reaction causes them to whip up their stinger, which is often the case when attacked by predators or stepped on. Even then, a stingray attack is rarely fatal. If stung in the lower limb region, it will most likely just result in a cut causing pain, swelling and muscle cramps from the venom. If it hits the upper body, a major artery or causes a very deep puncture, an infection may occur. The trick to avoiding getting stung is to let them know you are coming. This involves doing the ‘stingray shuffle’; a method of running one’s feet over the sand in order to stir up sediment and warn them of your approach.