Example: [Collected via e-mail, February 2009]
Mass Migration of Golden Cow-nose rays
Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea, thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico. The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.
Gliding silently beneath the waves, they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks. She said: 'It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.'
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Origins: Some of the images shown above are reminiscent of
Cownose rays have poisonous stingers, but even in large groups they're shy and not threatening. In 1608, Captain John Smith, an East Coast settler and explorer, learned about the nature of a cownose's sting. While Smith was spearing a ray with his sword near the Rappahannock River, the ray defended itself by stinging Smith in the shoulder. The pain was so terrible that the crew were convinced Smith was dying, so they dug a grave for him. But John Smith overcame the pain and felt well enough that evening to eat the ray for supper. The place where this happened is still known as Stingray Point.
As this ray swims through the ocean, its wingtips often break the surface, resembling the dorsal fin of a shark, which sometimes causes undue alarm for swimmers and divers. Occasionally, they jump out of the water and land with a loud smack, a behavior thought to be a territorial display.
Later I learned that they migrate 10,000 at a time and are found in the warm currents from Brazil all the way to southern New England. Passive creatures, they can live until about
As quickly as they appeared that magic day, the migrating rays disappeared. I felt very fortunate to experience something so beautiful.
Last updated: 2 June 2012