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Marine Life & Conservation

Creature Feature: Cownose Ray



In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This month we’re showing off one of the lesser-known rays: the Cownose Ray, so-called due to the two lobes on the top of their head. When viewed from above, these lobes resemble a cow’s nose.

The Cownose Ray is a species of eagle ray (which also includes the Bull Ray, Banded Eagle Ray and others). They are often mistaken for sharks from the beach, due to the tips of their fins sticking out of the water (resembling the dorsal fin of a shark).

Typically, brown-backed, with a whitish or yellowish belly, it’s the Cownose Ray’s shape that is the key identifier; with its broad head, wide-set eyes, and pair of lobes on its subrostral (in front of the “face”) fin.

They typically feed on clams, oysters and other invertebrates. Preferring to feed in early morning or late afternoon, when waves are calm, and visibility is good. They uncover their prey by stirring up the sand and sediment with their wings. Once located, Cownose Rays can create a vacuum with their mouths to suck up their prey from the seabed. They have a set of concrete-like dental plates which are perfect for crushing shells . In addition to their strong mouths, the Cownose Ray also have a few defensive abilities too. They are stingrays and have a barb on the base of their tails to defend themselves, which produces a toxin that injures the aggressor.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Social creatures, they typically swim in groups. They also migrate extremely long distances, often in schools of up to 10,000. Their migration is from the Gulf of Mexico to Trinidad, Venezuela and Brazil. Atlantic migration consists of the rays moving north in late spring and moving south in late autumn. Even though scientists can track their migration well (even from airplanes as the schools can be seen from the sky!), the reason for their migration is still a mystery. It’s unknown if it’s due to feeding or a pre-mating activity

They reach sexual maturity at 6 to 7 years and can live up to ~21 years. Females give birth to live young, following a11-12 months gestation period.

They are listed as Vulnerable, due to extensive overfishing – mainly in the Caribbean. Whilst the meat from Cownose Rays is not in-demand and thus they are not targeted by largescale operations. They are overfished in the Caribbean and along the Venezuelan coast – with declines in the population of up to 49% in the last 43 years.

SCIENTIFIC NAME:  Rhinoptera bonasus

  • FAMILY:  Rhinopteridae
  • MAXIMUM SIZE:  ~110 cm wide
  • DIET:  Clams, oysters, hard clams, crustaceans and other invertebrates
  • DISTRIBUTION:  Western Atlantic from southern New England to northern Florida (USA) and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, migrating to Trinidad, Venezuela, and Brazil.
  • HABITAT:  Brackish and marine habitats, usually in shallow waters but have been found up to a depth of 60 m.

Cownose Ray Activity Bundle

Discover more with the Cownose Ray Activity Bundle. Brought to you by award-winning outdoor education provider – The Great Out-Tours.

Created for children and adults in care homes, these bundles of fun will provide hours of entertainment.

Wordsearches, jigsaws, arts and crafts, educational videos, a family quiz and so much more. All jammed packed into this bundle for just £1, with 15p going to the Shark Trust!

► Find out more about our shark bundles

For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

Header Image: David Clode on Unsplash

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here!

Marine Life & Conservation

The Shark Trust Great Shark Snapshot is back



The last week of July will see the return of the Shark Trust’s citizen science initiative, The Great Shark Snapshot. It invites divers and snorkellers, all around the world, to record the sharks and rays that they see. This year it takes place between the 20th and 28th July.

The event is back for its 3rd year, and it is happening in “Shark Month”, more commonly known as July! To coincide with a series of events that celebrate all things shark and ray.

Divers, their clubs, dive centres, charter boats and liveaboards are all encouraged to show their support by organising dives and events through the week. As well as gathering vital data, the event will provide a chance to celebrate the incredible shark and ray species that live in our ocean.

Information about the species and numbers of sharks and rays the participants find over the week will be added to the Shark Trust’s Shark Log. This global shark census will, over time, allow shark scientists to build a picture of species distribution and any changes that occur

Caroline Robertson-Brown, Marketing Manager at the Shark Trust said “It is great to see this popular citizen science event back for its 3rd year. Whether you are diving your local dive site, or on a trip of a lifetime, we want divers to join in on the Great Shark Snapshot in July. I cannot wait to hear from the divers and dive organisations about the species of sharks and rays that they see. And where in the world they see them.”

It is easy to join in. Just go diving between 20th and 28th July and record every shark, ray and skate that you and your dive group sees. If possible, take photos and some video footage too. Then make sure that you record your sightings on the Shark Trust Shark Log recordings website or by using the Shark Trust app.

The Great Shark Snapshot is a way for divers to get together, go diving, and do something to help shark conservation. Why not dive in?

Find out more here:

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch



the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

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