Despite the normal current present while scuba diving in Cozumel, I managed to get this beautiful group of spotted eagle rays on video…
The water at Punta Sur was absolutely crystal clear that day with visibility in excess of 200 feet.
Spotted eagle rays, Aetobatus narinari, are a cartilaginous fish of the eagle ray family, Myliobatidae. They live in tropical waters around the world (including both sides of the American continents).
A group of spotted eagle rays, manta rays, stingrays, devil rays or any other ray is a fever of rays – though admittedly when I see them gliding this gracefully in formation, I like to thinking of them as a squadron.
I do frequently get asked by people interested in scuba diving in Cozumel when the best time of year is to see spotted eagle rays. We usually see the most eagle rays in Cozumel between January and March. Of course, there are the few that arrive early or stay late and we do see them on occasion throughout the year. While they are usually solitary creatures, during “Cozumel eagle ray season” I have seen fevers of spotted eagle rays as large as 20 to 25 animals and Luis has said that he’s seen even larger groups!
The best location to find eagle rays in Cozumel is usually to the north, outside of the marine park, at a dive site we locally refer to as “Eagle Ray Alley” but is also popularly known as Cantarel. They can also be found near the south end of the island and inside of the marine park at Punta Sur over the sandy bottom where they can easily find and eat their favorite meal – conch, snails, crabs and hermit crabs. Their large nose (“rostrum”) contains electrosensory pores that help eagle rays find prey hidden beneath the sand. Their massive jaws allow them to crack even the largest of shells – it’s awesome to watch (and hear) eagle rays eating underwater!
I shot this video of a HUGE spotted eagle ray at Cedar Pass (Paso de Cedral). The animal was so big that it had 4 remoras, each about 1 meter (3 feet) long, hanging out with it hoping for a free ride and an easy meal! You can see the ray picking up a very large conch and devour it with its huge jaws and then spit out what was left of the shell!!!
Here are a couple of other facts about spotted eagle rays I found interesting:
- It’s estimated that spotted eagle rays live for about 25 years.
- They can have a wingspan up to 7.5 feet (2.25 meters) and a tail length of up to 3 times the width of their body.
- The pattern of spots on their backs are unique to each individual; no two are the same.
- Female eagle rays are larger than the males.
- Between 1 and 5 eggs develop inside of the pregnant female at a time and when the baby rays are released, they already have a wingspan of about 12 inches.
- Eagle rays have between 2 and 6 venomous stingers located at the base of their tail. These serrated and barbed spines are capable of causing a painful, nasty wound if the ray feels immediately threatened. Eagle rays are usually timid enough, however, to quickly swim away from anything they feel is a danger.
Unfortunately, spotted eagle rays are considered “near threatened”. There are no laws in Mexico, outside of specially protected marine sanctuaries, that prevent harvesting them.
Let’s go diving!