Eagle Rays in Mauritius
The Eagle Rays are a family of large rays living in the open ocean in opposite to their bottom-dwelling relatives. They are cartilaginous fishes and therefore closely related to sharks. Eagle Rays belong to the order of Myliobatiformes, further splitting among 3 families, the True Eagle Rays (Myliobatidae), Pelagic Eagle Rays (Aetobatidae), and Manta and Devil Rays (Mobulidae; White & Naylor 2016).
In Mauritius, you can observe members of all three families although only the ‘Pelagic Eagle Rays’, especially the Ocellated Eagle Ray (Aetobatis ocellatus), can be seen regularly. We might get lucky to see the occasional Manta ray in our waters but these encounters are really rare (1 maybe 2 a year; which makes it just way more exciting if we can spot one!).
Eagle rays have a distinct head with a snout (called rostrum) and eyes on the side of their head instead of on top like their stingray relatives. Their large head increases its surface area resulting in more space for their electroreceptors (called ampullae of Lorenzini), which are used to hunt for hidden prey on the bottom of the sea. Although they hunt on the bottom, we usually only encounter them ‘flying’ in the currents.
They can reach wingspans up to 2m, are believed to live as long as 25 years, and their backs are covered in white rings and spots which are specific to each individual (similar to our fingerprints).
Similar to other rays, they are also equipped with a venomous stinger which is used for protection against attacks.
Eagle Rays can sometimes be spotted jumping out of the water. The reason for this behavior is unknown. Eagle rays might do this to remove parasites and Remoras from their bodies or simply for fun.
With us, you can often spot Eagle Rays on our sites “Aquarium” and “Big Rock”.
Find a description of our Dive-Sites here.