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Fish #42 Pelagic Stingray Pteroplatytrygon violacea ~ W Flemming
This mysterious creature, which was recorded for the first time in 1832 from the east coast of India, is believed to be a real cosmopolitan. Observed throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, from the Galapagos Islands to The North Sea, it is very rarely encountered by humans - unlike most of its closest relatives, Whiptail Stingrays. Being the sole member of its genus, it even swims differently - gliding through water in a mesmerizing slowundulating motion, which reminds more of giant Eagle Rays. However, with its most common size of about 60 cm it is hardly gigantic.
So why is this stingray so special? The key is in its common name - Pelagic - which means "of or relating to the open sea". It is the only member of the family that lives in open ocean, rather than cosying in sandy bottom shallow waters. An active hunter, it feeds on free-swimming invertebrates, as well as small fishes such as herring and mackerel. After spending the winter season in the warmth of oceanic waters near the equator, it loves to take advantage of seasonal feeding of octopus, shrimp and squid while it migrates off the equator towards the North or the South for the summer, closer to the coast. The ocean world is truly its oyster!
Its world is also full of danger, mostly coming from its cousin, the oceanic whitetip shark or from longline fisheries around the world. It is caught frequently by tuna and swordfish longliners and mostly, sometimes even brutally, discarded as bycatch. That is why about ten years ago pelagic stingray was added to the "red list" of threatened species maintained by the World Conservation Union. Luckily, due to apparent lack of population declines, reported since the 1950s, coupled with its wide distribution and high reproductive rate, it is listed as "Least Concern" at the moment. Hopefully the future generations will still have opportunities to observe and admire this gracefully shy free-roamer of the ocean - and The North Sea.
W.Flemming is an artist and illustrator, living and working in the north of England.
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