We have been lucky enough to see stingrays at a number of zoos and aquariums over the past few years.
It seems that many of us are newly fascinated by these beautiful marine animals and willing to get up close and personal with them at touch tanks and through large glass tunnels in aquariums.
But how much do we really know about stingrays?
They can be very elusive in the wild, tending to hide in the sand and swim in deeper waters.
I was invited to attend a media event last year at a local aquarium and learned quite a bit about stingrays so I thought I would share some of the cool facts & details!
Stingray Facts for Kids
Fishy Fact #1: Are stingrays fish?
Yes, stingrays are fish.
They do not have any bones but instead have cartilage in their bodies (similar to what people have in the outer part of their ear that helps it keep it's shape.)
Stingrays also have gills and use their large fins to move through the water.
Fishy Fact #2: Do stingrays really sting?
Stingrays use their tails to defend themselves.
If a ray is scared or feels threatened, it will use its tail to deliver a sharp 'poke' to keep itself safe. Some stingrays also have venom in their tail which is dangerous to other animals and humans.
If you are 'poked' by a stingray's tail, it will feel like a sting and probably hurt quite a bit, but stingrays rarely hurt humans unless they are provoked.
The rays you encounter at touch tanks are safe to touch and will not sting as their barbs have been removed. And most stingrays in the wild will try to swim away or hide from you instead of trying to attack.
Fishy Fact #3: What does a stingray eat?
Stingrays like to eat things like clams, crabs, mussels and worms.
Stingrays have eyes on the top of their body and a mouth underneath (see the photo above). Many rays like to stay near the bottom of the ocean and find their food on the ocean floor.
Fishy Fact #4: Can stingrays fly?
It may look like they have wings, but those are fins. A stingray moves much of it's body in order to swim through the water.
When the stingray moves its fins up and down, kids might describe them as looking like they 'have wings' or 'flying in the water'.
Some types of rays will also leap out of the water and their fins help to keep them airborne for a brief period of time.
Fishy Fact #5: Why do they all swim together?
Some species of stingrays swim in 'schools' just like fish.
Be sure to explain to the kids that in the marine world, we call a large group of fish that swim together a school.
But not all stingrays swim in schools; some will swim alone in the ocean. One of the most popular type of ray that you'll see at many aquariums, the cownosed ray, do live in schools.
Fun Things Kids might Notice about Stingrays:
Most rays have different color skin on the tops of their body than they do underneath.
A stingray's body is a fun diamond shape - great if you're kids are learning about shapes.
If you look at them from underneath, sometimes they look like they are smiling.
MORE OCEAN FUN FOR KIDS:
What do you find so interesting about stingrays?