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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes
Skates, rays and stingrays
Order Rajiformes
updated Nov 13

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They are related to sharks and have cartilage instead of bones.
They give birth to live young.
They will not sting unless you step on them. Watch your step!

Where seen? Elegant discs with bulbous eyes and a narrow tail, these large fishes are often seen in our mangroves, seagrass meadows and coral reefs.

What are these fishes? Called skates, rays and stingrays, these fishes belong to the Order Rajiformes which includes 10 families. Those commonly seen on our shores at low tide are stingrays that belong to Family Dasyatidae. These fishes are related to sharks but most are adapted for hunting and living on the sea bottom. For simplicity, we'll refer to all these fishes as rays.

Rays have flattened bodies with greatly enlarged pectoral fins along their body edges. With graceful undulations of these fins, they seem to 'fly' through the water. Some also use these enlarged fins to bury themselves in the sand.

To avoid breathing in mud and sand, water is taken in from the the upperside of their bodies through spiracles (holes) beside their eyes. The water is then expelled through gill slits on the underside of the body. The snout may function as an electroreceptive organ, sensitive to electric charges of prey buried in the ground.

Stingrays have a sting on their tails (usually near where the tail joins the body, and not at the tip of the tail), while eletric rays can generate electical currents that can give you a nasty shock. So avoid handling these animals. Stingrays often hide in silty bottoms and under coral ledges, watch where you step and where you put your hand.

Sometimes confused with horseshoe crabs. In murky waters, the two animals look very similar, both being round and flat with a long tail.

Making no bones: Rays are closely related to sharks. Like sharks, the skeleton of rays are made of flexible cartilage. If you want to know how cartilage feels like, your nose and ears are made of cartilage!

Baby rays: Rays practice internal fertilisation. Most rays give birth to live fully developed young, although some may lay eggs enclosed in a capsule.

Human uses: Stingrays are a popular seafood dish in Singapore. The large pectoral fins are barbequed and served with chilli, often on a banana leaf. You can see their cartilageous bones as you eat the flesh. Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) is also popular in the live aquarium trade although it does not do well in captivity.

Status and threats: Our Stingrays are not listed as endangered. However, throughout its range, the Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) is under pressure from over collection for the aquarium trade and destruction of its reef habitat. Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, Stingrays are also affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Poaching by hobbyists and overfishing can also have an impact on local populations.

Order Rajiformes recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*from Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Jeffrey K. Y. Low, 1998. A Guide to the Common Marine Fishes of Singapore.
**our observation.

  Family Dasyatidae (Stingrays) with list of species recorded for Singapore

*Family Gymnuridae (Butterfly rays)

  Family Myliobatidae (Eagle, cownose and manta rays) with list of species recorded for Singapore

  Family Pristidae (Sawfishes)
  Pristis cuspidatus
Pristis perotheti

  Family Rhinidae (Stavenose rays)
  Rhina ancylostoma

  Family Rhinobatidae (Guitarfishes)
  Platyrhina senensis

Rhinobatus armatus
Rhinobatus granulatus
Rhinobatus thouinianus
*Rhinobatus djiddensis
(White-spotted guitarfish)

  *Family Narcinidae/Torpedinidae (Electric rays) with list of species recorded for Singapore



  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 pp.
  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
  • Lim, S., P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology, the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.
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