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Eagle ray wins fish of the year!

Eagle ray - Whai repo - takes out Fish of the Year !

The eagle ray is representing the cartilaginous fish family for Fish of the Year. Yes, that means they have no hard bones in their body and are in the same family as sharks and other rays. Eagle rays can be easily distinguished from other rays in New Zealand by their diamond shape. They flap their wings at the same time, like a bird, while other rays, like stingrays, are round in shape and ripple their wings to move.

Distribution and habitat: Eagle rays are found all around New Zealand as well as the Kermadecs, Norfolk Island, Southern and Western Australia.  Their habitat ranges from sandy flats, seagrass beds, estuaries and bays as well as near rocky reefs. They usually prefer to hang out in shallow water, however they have been found as deep as 422 metres! 

Diet: Eagle rays mainly feed on benthic animals like crabs, clams and worms that are buried in the seabed. They use their unique mouths to crush prey to get at the soft bodies inside hard shells. They also have electro-sensory organs in their head in order to find their prey hidden in the sand, and using a jet of water they clear away the sand to expose their meal. This method of feeding is very noticable whilst snorkelling as it leaves large indentations (like craters) in the sand. 

Max length: 150 cm (fin to fin) 

 Breeding and behaviour: Eagle rays produce live young and can have litters of up to 20. They are usually 20 - 30 cm when born. The claspers on male eagle rays distinguish them from females making them relatively easy to tell apart. Females are generally larger than males.  

Fun facts: Eagle rays were originally thought to be endemic to New Zealand until it was discovered that the Australian eagle ray species was identical. For defence against threats, eagle rays have a venomous spine on their tails (like other ray species). Eagle rays are a favourite snack of orca.  

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