Yellow Stingray

Yellow Stingray, Urobatis jamaicensis

The Yellow Stingray, Urobatis jamaicensis, whose common Spanish name is raya redonda de estero, is a species in the American Round Stingray or Urotrygonidae Family, known collectively as raya redondas Americanas in Mexico. Globally, there are only six species in the genus Urobatis, four of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Yellow Stingrays have rounded pectoral fins and rounded pelvic fins that afford a rounded disc. The dorsal side has either minute dark green or brown reticulations on a light background or dense white, yellow or golden spots on a dark green or brown background. The ventral side is off white with yellowish, greenish or brownish tinges. They have the ability to quickly change these colors for camouflage. The caudal fin has dark spots. The heads have short obtuse snouts with spiracles that immediately follow the eyes and straight mouths equipped with 30 to 34 rows of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws in bands. The teeth are broad based and in juveniles and females they are low blunt crowns while in males they are pointed cusps and more widely spaced. They have well-developed caudal fins that extend around the tip of the stout and flattened tail that has a doubly serrated venomous large spine near the base of the small leaf-shaped caudal fin that is four time longer than it is tall. The tails are less than half the total length. They do not have dorsal fins. The pelvic fins have a straight front margin and a rounded rear margin. Mature fish have blunt tubercles (lacking in newborns) on their backs that extend from between the eyes, into the shoulders and to the base of the tail. They also have recurved thorns along the upper margin of the caudal fin.

The Yellow Stringrays are found demersally in-shore over sandy areas adjacent to reefs in regions including bays and estuaries and low-energy surf zones where invertebrates are abundant at depths up to 80 feet. They are a small ray reach a maximum length of 76 cm (30 inches) with 36 cm (14 inch) disc widths; the discs are slightly longer than they are wide. The females are significantly larger than the males. Yellow Stingrays are non-migratory with small home ranges spending the days half submerged in substrate; during the night they become active predators consuming clams, shrimps, worms and small fishes. Reproduction is aplencental viviparous with each female bearing two liters per year of two to seven live miniature (6 cm disc widths) that are independent at birth. The newborns have discs that are wider than they are long. The Yellow Stingrays have keen eyesight which helps them avoid predation by large carnivorous fish such as the Tiger Shark. The Yellow Stingrays are scientifically interesting because their brains are approximately three time larger than other rays. They have the ability to exhibit biofluorescence and when illuminated by blue or ultraviolet light they re-emit green light which is believed to be involved in intraspecific communication and camouflage. They have life spans of up to twenty five years.

In Mexican waters the Yellow Stingrays are found in all coastal waters of the Atlantic. It has been documented that they use the Terminos Lagoon, Bahía de Campeche for breeding and as a nursery area.

The Yellow Stringrays are a straightforward identification as they are the only Stingray found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic with a highly patterned dorsal side.

The Yellow Stringrays should be considered as dangerous and handle accordingly due the large venomous tail spine. Individual responses to puncture wounds vary from an itch to several pain but is not life threatening. They are easily approached and friendly toward divers. Due to their small size they are of limited interest to most and not fished commercially. They are caught and sold on a limited basis by the aquarium trade as they quickly adapt to captivity but require a large amount of space. T From a conservation perspective they are currently considered to be of Least Concern being abundant with a wide distribution and stable populations. However there are numerous reports that they are totally absent from several areas of the Caribbean. They are caught as a bycatch of other fisheries with a high mortality rate and are also negatively affected by habitat degradation, and particularly to seagrass beds which they use for birth and pupping.

Yellow Stingray, Urobatis jamaicensis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Tobacco Caye, Belize, October 2012. Total Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Disc: 24 cm (9.4 inches) x 19 cm (7.5 inches). Tail: 14 cm (5.3 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Josh Leisen (, Gaylord, MI.