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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Order Rajiformes
Family Narcinidae

updated Oct 2016

Where seen? This rather chubby ray with a stumpy tail was seen on our Northern shores, among seagrasses. Elsewhere, they are found in sandy, muddy areas, from river mouths to coral reefs. It was previously in Family Torpenididae.

What are numbfishes? Numbfishes are rays belonging to Family Torpedinidae. Some scientists group these fishes in the Family Narcinidae which according to FishBase has 9 genera and 24 species. They are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Numbfishes are different from stingrays that belong to the Family Dasyatidae.

Features: 15-60cm in diameter. Body flattened disc-shaped. Like other rays, it takes water in from gill openings on the upperside of the body, expelling water out from gill slits on the underside, enlarged pectoral fins along the body edges. Unlike stingrays, the numbfish has a pair of obvious dorsal and a tail fin too. The tail is short and fat and not whip-lik, and lacks stinging barbs..

Members of this group also have a pair of kidney-shaped electric organs at the base of the pectoral fins that can produce mild to strong electric shocks. Thus their common name. Their scientific name comes from the Greek 'narke' which means 'paralysis'. The eyes are small and the skin soft and loose.

What do they eat? Electric rays use their electric power to stun fishes that they eat. While most eat small fishes, some species can stun relatively large fishes that are eaten whole. The jaws and mouth are highly protrusible forming a tube to suck up prey. Some shallow water species spend most of their time buried in the sand with only their nostrils visible.

Electric babies:
These fishes give birth to live young, producing small litters.

This particular ray was seen several times and is still unidentified. It had a round body about 10cm in diameter. Beige with maroon spots. Short fat tail with two round dorsal fins. A similar numbfish was also seen and photographed at Chek Jawa by Cheng Puay.

Narcine maculata
Changi, Jun 05

Short fat tail with dorsal and tail fins.

Numbfishes in Singapore

Photos of Numbfishes for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Family Narcinidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
**from WORMS

  **Family Narcinidae
  Narcine maculata (Dark-spotted numbfish)

Narke dipterygia

Temera hardwickii
(Hardwicke's eletric ray)



  • Chan Sow Yan. 17 Jan 2014. Dark-spotted numbfish (Narcine maculata) neonate at Changi Beach. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 22
  • 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.
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