Yellow Stingrays – Where’s Waldo?


That might be the question this yellow stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis) hopes we’re asking, as it fluffs up sand to try to hide itself. In this case it didn’t work since we watched it approach and then proceed to bury itself – most ineffectively.


U. jamaicensis typically measures 12 to 15 inches across, excluding the tail (although the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, which has yellow stingrays in its collection, says they can grow to up to 30 inches). They can live up to 25 years at depths between one and 80 feet. Yellow stingrays are found along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina south, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and, everybody says, occasionally in the Caribbean.

This guy, which I think was about 18 inches across, was found off Belize at about 10 feet (a great night dive right off the Turneffe Flats resort, by the way!). 

Yellow stingrays are, obviously, nominally yellow, with a lot of spots. Actually, coloration can vary – greenish or brown spots on a lighter background, white, yellow or gold spots on a green or brown background.

The stingray cometh.

Like most stingrays, U. jamaicensis has a venomous spine on the end of its tail – almost entirely used in defense. Most human injuries are from accidentally stepping on them – that one foot of water thing; be careful when walking in the surf. Being stung is rarely life-threatening.


Yellow stingrays feed on small fishes, crustaceans and worms. Although not studied thoroughly, they’re believed to dig holes in the sand by fluffing their pectoral wings to expose buried crabs and worms. In adults, both the upper and lower jaws have approximately 30 teeth. In turnabout-is-fair-play: they’re prey to large carnivorous fishes, including sharks.

And then turneth around. And then hide itself like a three-year-old kid behind the curtain with big feet. An alternative view is that we were frightening the poor guy and should have gone away. Which we did, eventually.

Following the usual shark/ray pattern, mating involves males biting onto a female pectoral fin and swinging underneath into an abdomen to abdomen configuration. Yellow stingrays are ovoviviparous – the three or four pups develop in eggs inside the female’s  body until they hatch (or are about to hatch).

PRINCIPAL SOURCES: “Yellow Stingray,” University of Florida Department of Ichthyology; “Yellow Stingray,” Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium; Reef Fish Identification Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, Paul Humann, Ned DeLoach