Myliobatiformes – Stingrays & allies
These graceful rays with flat elegance are the evolutionary descendants of sharks
Myliobatiform rays are the most advanced group among batoids (Rays) and possess distinctive characteristics. Their pectoral disc can be oval, triangular, or kite-shaped, sometimes elaborated into graceful wings-like. The tails range from moderately stout to slender, loaded with saw-edged spines or stings on the dorsal surface, serving as defensive weapons.
Mantas and devil rays (Mobula sp.) have paddle-like cephalic fins for funnelling plankton into their large mouths as filter feeders. The majority of stingray species are bottom-dwellers feeding on buried molluscs and crustaceans. In contrast, the pelagic species usually eat squids. Certain subfamilies are called nutcracker rays due to their fused teeth into plates that crush hard shells of organisms.
Interestingly, mother Myliobatoids secrete high-protein substances (uterine milk) to nourish developing embryos. Some species have special uterus parts that can deliver nourishing secretions through spiracles to the baby ray’s pharynx.
Critical habitats, such as estuaries, coastal areas, and coral reefs, serve as essential nurseries and feeding grounds for many species within the Myliobatiformes order. The destruction and degradation of these habitats due to factors like pollution, habitat loss, and coastal development significantly impact the populations of Myliobatiformes and their overall ecosystem.