Species Details

Details of Cowtail stingray will be displayed below

Cowtail stingray   

Common Name: Cowtail Ray, Pastenague Plumetée
Scientific Name: Pastinachus sephen
Local Name: Keyo'faiyh'madi
Dhivehi Name: ކެޔޮފަތްމަޑި
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Dasyatidae  (Family)
Unknown   (Genus)

Cowtail stingray's description

A large, plain, dark stingray with an angular snout and pectoral disc. The pectoral fin disk of the cowtail stingray is very thick, with almost straight anterior margins and rounded apices, and measuring 1.1-1.3 times as long as wide. The snout is broadly rounded and blunt. The eyes are very small and widely spaced. The mouth is narrow, with 20 rows of distinctive hexagonal, high-crowned teeth in each jaw and five papillae on the mouth floor. The tail is broad-based, with a filamentous tip and a single venomous spine located well backwards of the pelvic fins. There is no upper tail fold; the high ventral tail fold measures 2-3 times the height of the tail but does not reach the tip. The disk surface is covered by a broad band of fine dermal denticles extending from near the tip of the snout to the upper surface of the tail, excluding the extreme margins of the disk. Newborns are entirely smooth but develop denticles quickly after birth. Juveniles have four circular tubercles at the center of the disk, which often become indistinct in adults. The coloration is a uniform grayish brown to black above and mostly white below. The tail fold and tip are black. This species may reach 3 meters (9.8 feet) long and 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) across, and 250 kg (550 lb) in weight.

Cowtail stingray's facts

Did you know?

  • This species is targeted by commercial fisheries as a source of high-quality shagreen, a type of leather, and its populations are now under threat from heavy exploitation

Cowtail stingray's Behavior & Ecology

Found in lagoons, reef flats, and reef faces. Also in rivers far from the sea. Ovoviviparous. Adults are sometimes accompanied by remoras or members of the trevally family. Size at birth about 18 cm WD or large.

Cowtail stingray's Feeding

Feeds on bony fishes, worms, shrimp, and crabs.

Cowtail stingray's Reproduction

Exhibit ovoviparity (aplacental viviparity), with embryos feeding initially on yolk, then receiving additional nourishment from the mother by indirect absorption of uterine fluid enriched with mucus, fat or protein through specialised structures. Distinct pairing with embrace. Size at birth about 18 cm WD

Cowtail stingray's Relationship with Humans

It is known that this species flesh being used as food and skin used for polishing wood.There is a targeted fishery on this species for its skin, which is used as 'shagreen' in fashion accessories, from wallets to fancy pens; as a result, the species is in danger of disappearance.

Cowtail stingray habitat

The Cowtail Ray is benthic in coastal habitats, and occurs over soft substrates, often near coral reefs (Last et al. 2016) to depths of 60 m. Maximum size and biology is poorly known due to confusion amongst Pastinachus spp. This species reaches at least 89 cm disc width (Last et al. 2016). Generation length is estimated at 20 years based on age data from Maculabatis astra (Jacobsen 2007).

Cowtail stingray threats

Cowtail Rays are regularly captured in trawl, gillnet and longline fisheries across the range of this species. In places, fishing pressure is intense and increasing. For example, in the Indian state of Gujarat, the number of trawlers increased from ~6,600 in 2004 to over 11,500 trawlers in 2010 (Zynudheen et al. 2004, CMFRI 2010). Similarly, gillnet fishing (including net length) is increasing in India (Bineesh K.K., unpub. data). Indian west coast annual landings of Cowtail Rays have fluctuated between ~14 and 40 tonnes in recent years (Bineesh K.K. pers. comm. 06/02/2017). In Pakistan waters, about 2,000 trawlers operate in shelf waters, targeting shrimp in shallow waters and fish in deeper shelf waters (M. Khan pers. comm. 06/02/2017). In Iran, there is increasing fishing effort with the number of fishermen going from 70,729 in 1993 to 109,601 in 2002 (Valinassab et al. 2006). In the Saudi Red Sea, the number of traditional vessels operating increased from about 3,100 to 10,000 between 1988 and 2006 (Bruckner et al. 2011).

Cowtail Rays are generally discarded in the Red Sea and the Gulf (due to undesirable meat), in contrast to the normal retention in India. Fishers will often remove the tail before release. Rays without tails seem to survive as these have been recorded on BRUVs in the region (J. Spaet unpub. data). Survivorship from released line catches would be higher than trawl where the species may suffer mortality even if released.

Marine habitats in the Gulf are experiencing high levels of disturbance and quickly deteriorating due to major impacts from development activities (including dredging and reclamation), desalination plants, industrial activities, habitat destruction through the removal of shallow productive areas and major shipping lanes (Sheppard et al. 2010) which is likely to impact this species.

Cowtail stingray's status