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