Common Stingaree: Trygonoptera testacea

Family: Urolophidae
Common name(s)

Common Stingaree.

Identification

A medium-sized stingaree with a somewhat rounded kite-shaped disc that is slightly wider than long. Snout obtusely angular, sometimes with a slightly extended tip. Anterior margins of disc straight or mildly convex, apices rounded. Disc completely smooth.
Eyes medium-sized; orbit length 0.21-0.27 x snout length. Spiracle origin below or slightly anterior to mid-eye. Mouth small. 3-5 oral papillae on mouth floor. Nasal curtain skirt shaped, not extended into a distinct lobe, posterior margin heavily fringed. Broad, lateral-posterior lobe present on each nostril.
Tail long (0.83-0.96 x disc length), oval in cross-section, depressed anteriorly. Small dorsal fin present on mid-tail, sometimes reduced to a fleshy ridge. Caudal fin relatively narrow and elongate.

Colour

Dorsum light to dark greyish brown with no markings. Disc often paler near margin. Dorsal fin greyish. Ventrum white, sometimes with a dusky margin.

Size

Total length at least 52cm. Length at birth approximately 12cm.

Habitat

Subtropical to temperate seas. Found on sandy substrates, often adjacent to rocky reefs. Also forages upstream in estuaries. Intertidal to 135m but usually shallower than 60m.

Distribution

Southwestern Pacific. Confined to southeast Australia from southern Queensland to Cape Howe, New South Wales.

Conservation Status

NEAR THREATENED

Parts of the geographic and bathymetric range of the Common Stingaree are under relatively significant pressure from inshore trawling activities as well as other fishing gear. The Common Stingaree is a regular discarded bycatch of otter trawlers and Danish seiners in the southern part of its range in the Commonwealth-managed Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) (Walker and Gason 2007). In southern Queensland, the northern extent of the species’ range, it is taken as bycatch in the Eastern King Prawn (EKP) sector of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery (ECTF). This is one of the most common elasmobranch bycatch species in this sector of the fishery and catch data indicates that the species aggregates with nursery areas overlapping with trawling grounds (Kyne et al. 2002, 2016, P. Kyne unpublished data). In New South Wales, the species is a bycatch of the Ocean Prawn Trawl Fishery, as well as in inshore and estuarine trawl fisheries, estuarine prawn seine fisheries, and beach seine fisheries (Gray et al. 1990, Gray and Kennelly 2003, Gray et al. 2003). Given its inshore occurrence, this species is occasionally taken by recreational beach anglers (P. Kyne pers. obs.).
Where the species is taken as bycatch, a concern is the demonstrated low post-release survivorship of trawl caught individuals (Campbell et al. 2018), and the fact that urolophids frequently abort pups upon capture and handling; even if gravid females survived capture, their reproductive output can be lost (White et al. 2001, Trinnie et al. 2009, Adams et al. 2018).
The effects of inshore and coastal habitat degradation on this species are unknown but it may be less affected through habitat modification than other species (for example, the Estuary Stingray Hemitrygon fluviorum) as it is still common in relatively degraded areas (i.e., areas around Sydney).

Citation

Kyne, P.M., Finucci, B., Marshall, L.J., Last, P.R. & Trinnie, F. 2019. Trygonoptera imitataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T60081A68648058. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T60081A68648058.en. Downloaded on 20 March 2021.

Reproduction

Viviparous, probably with trophodermic nutrition. 2 pups per litter. Parturition occurs in March and April.

Diet

Diet consists mainly of polychaete worms and shrimps.

Behavior

Poorly known.

Reaction to divers

Fairly easy to observe with non-threatening movements but will bolt if approached too closely.

Diving logistics

As the name suggests, the common stingaree is easily spotted throughout much of its range in conveniently shallow water. For example, while shore diving at Southwest Rocks, I stumbled upon a dozen in the a single dive.

Similar species

All other shallow water stingarees within range either have distinct markings or lack a dorsal fin.