Marine Life

Last week I received my Florida Master Naturalist pins, and I am happy to add Land Steward and Advanced Master Naturalist to my collection. I am currently on my last program- Marine Habitat Restoration, and this is unfamiliar territory for me, but honestly, I never met a habitat that I didn’t find extremely interesting. 

I am working on my final presentation that is due on May 18. I have to admit that I enjoy doing these, and I also find them highly encouraging, both creatively and educationally. I can practice creative and simple presentation ideas and dive deeper into understanding these habitats’ specific species.

I would probably never experience these species in their natural habitat, but I still would like share with you as I learn about these marine creatures. Maybe there could be a possibility of what I encounter will spark an interest to you to discover the life of the ocean.   

My husband accompanied me to gather photos for my Google Slide presentation; while we headed to another destination, we got distracted and visited the Tarpon Springs Aquarium. I have to say…………………..

I LOVE COWNOSE RAYS

When I volunteer for the Horseshoe Crab Monitoring, I have encountered stingrays I believe to be Atlantic Stingrays, but I never was up close and personal to feed a Cownose Ray.  Yes, it was a little fearful at first looking at this strange oceanic species, but after that first experience, your heart melts.

 Just look at that face! 

The lobes illustrated in the photo below are an adaptation of the pectoral fin used to explore the seabed for food. However, these lobes are not only used for sifting through the sand; they also are used for suction which increases the ability for them to find those yummy crustaceans hiding underneath the sand.   

Their skin is smooth. Honestly, I don’t think there is another adjective I can tag onto that that gives the feeling justice. It’s just so cool. However, all that cuteness has a way to protect itself- the spine. Nested close to the ray’s hind body and atop its tail is a spine- a sharp, jagged jabber that can pack quite a sting. 

Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), has listed the Cownose Ray as a “Near Threatened” species. 

  Onward to the next discovery!


Here are some tidbits about the Cownose Ray:

-Pelagic species meaning inhabiting the upper layers of the open sea

-Gregarious meaning living in flocks or loosely organized communities

  • Predators: Sandbar shark, cobia, and bull shark.
  • Diet/Prey: The cownose ray will feed mainly on bottom-dwelling mollusks and crustaceans.  
  • Female Cownose rays give birth to only one pup a year.

Further Reading

Eastern Cottonmouth (scaquarium.org) (It will link to the pdf for the Cownose Ray)

Rhinoptera bonasus – Discover Fishes (ufl.edu)

For The First Time, Biologists Track Cownose Rays to Florida and Back | Smithsonian Institution (si.edu)

Be safe in your travels!

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