Our goal is to show you how great diving in New England is. We have begun to tell you about the local dive sites, now we want to show you what marine life you can see around here. From now on we will be featuring local marine life and give you tips on where to spot them! This week we talk about the Atlantic Torpedo Ray.
The Atlantic Torpedo Ray is found on both sides of the Atlantic. In the west, its territory ranges from Nova Scotia to Brazil. In the east, you can find them from Scotland to Morocco. We also have the opportunity to view and encounter these animals. You can find these rays locally at Folly’s Cove, Lane’s Cove, Plum Cove and the pigeon cove area of Rockport/Gloucester. They tend to hang out in waters of 30ft or deeper.
These animals are bottom dwellers. You will find them nestled and buried in the sand in the daytime. They are nocturnal animals, so you will find them out swimming at night, most likely on the hunt for food. They are generally docile creatures and seem to glide by when swimming.
You can identify the Torpedo Ray by its large round body with a large paddle-shaped caudal fin. Their eyes are small and set apart. Both dorsal fins are located on the tail, one larger than the other. The electric organs are located on the pectoral fins on either side of the head, which gives the rays skin a honeycomb-like appearance. They are dark brown/gray and some might show light spots on its body. The average size is anywhere from 2ft-5ft and a weight of around 30lbs. The largest Atlantic Torpedo Ray was reported at 5.9 feet and a weight of 198 pounds!
The Torpedo Ray feeds on primarily large benthic and pelagic fish such as dogfish, flounder, small sharks and mullet. The rays feed by lying motionless on the sandy bottom until their prey is close enough to them where they can “pounce” on them, wrap their pectoral fins around the prey and send the electric shocks to kill the animal. They maneuver the prey to their mouth and swallow it whole. Their jaw can distend so it can swallow much bigger prey than most expect based on the width of the mouth when closed.
A large Torpedo Ray can deliver a shock of electricity ranging from 170-220 volts. To give you can idea of that power, a standard wall plug gives out about 120 volts. So you don’t want to get too close to these guys!
As a diver, you need to be cautious of what is around you, especially marine life. Make sure if you decide to lie on the sandy bottom to catch lobsters or to take a photo that one of these rays is not buried in the sand beneath you. Other than watching where you are going, these creatures do not pose any threat to you while diving. It is actually quite a treat to see one of these rays!