The I&J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium just welcomed a beautiful newcomer!

Meet our gorgeous new honeycomb stingray! With her incredible patterns and over two metre long tail, you will not want to miss seeing her on your next Aquarium visit.

Photo by Simon Leigh/Two Oceans Aquarium.

What is a honeycomb stingray?

The honeycomb stingray (Himantura uarnak) is a member of the Dasyatidae family, a group of cartilaginous fish known collectively as "whiptail stingrays" because of the venomous barbs in their tails. Another example, which you might be more familiar with, is the giant short-tail stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata), the largest stingray species in the world - and one that has been a regular attraction at the Aquarium over the years.

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Internationally, the honeycomb stingray is known by a bunch of different names: In the USA it's called a reticulate whipray, in Australia it is known as a leopard stingray, and in Europe it is called a marbled stingray.

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Simon Leigh/Two Oceans Aquarium.

As we're sure you've noticed, the honeycomb stingray gets its name from its intricate pattern. This pattern helps to camouflage it from sharks and other predators that may try to hunt it from above, as the stingray mostly rests on the sandy bottom of lagoons and shallow waters.

The rippling of water and light across the patterns of the honeycomb stingray help to throw off would-be predators. Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Unlike the short-tail stingray, the honeycomb has a thin, long tail - alluding to the common name of its family, "whiptail". Electrical sensors in this long tail allow it to sense approaching predators, such as dolphins and sharks, and you may see it extending its tail like an antenna inside the exhibit. The honeycomb is so good at detecting predators that many other species of stingray prefer to remain near it, rather than with their own species.

Using the sensors available to them, honeycomb stingrays are able to detect large predators and make a hasty escape - like this one fleeing from a diver.

Fully grown, a honeycomb stingray can be 6m long, 2m wide and weigh over 120kg.

Photo by Simon Leigh/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Is it dangerous?

Although it's a predator, the honeycomb stingray is only adapted to hunting bottom-dwelling animals like crabs, mantis shrimps, mussels, octopuses, upside-down jellies and small fish

The honeycomb stingray poses little threat to humans. Like other whiptail rays, it is equipped with a venomous, serrated barb at the base of its tail which it can use to defend itself. Only a few thousand people are injured by stingrays a year - almost all have foot injuries from accidentally stepping on one. The very few deaths reported have all been freak accidents, and nobody has been killed by the venom itself.

On the other hand - us humans actually pose a significant risk to the honeycomb stingray. The IUCN lists the honeycomb stingray as Vulnerable, due to overfishing and destruction of its habitat.

What are you waiting for? Come see our gorgeous newbie!

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

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