Skates and stingrays are mesmerizing species frequently confused due to their appearance. These two species have a deceptive resemblance, yet they substantially differ in size, reproduction, and behavior. The quickest way to tell the two apart is by their tail – Skates have short, thick, and meaty tails, while stingrays have long, whip-like tails.

But let’s dive in and find out more about these fascinating creatures.

Skate fish
Skate (right) vs Stingray (left) visual comparison

Left image credit: Hans Hillewaert, Right image credit: Jordan Robins Photography


Main Differences

  • Tails: Skates have short, thick, and meaty tails, while stingrays have long, whip-like tails.
  • Fin lobe: The pelvic fins of skates contain two lobes, whereas those of stingrays have only one.
  • Size: Skates are smaller (8 feet long) than stingrays which grow up to 16 feet long.
  • Lifespan: Skates have a lifespan of up to 50 years, while stingrays live 15-25 years.
  • Habitat: Skates may be found from tropical to Arctic seas at depths of more than 9,000 feet, but stingrays are often found in warm, shallow coastal areas.
  • Reproduction: Skates are oviparous, which means that they deposit eggs, whereas Stingrays are viviparous, which means that they give birth to fully-formed live offspring.


Skates

Appearance

Skates belong to the family Rajidae and have a thicker tail that is frequently shorter than stingrays. Skates have no poisonous barbs on their tails. They have a means of defense in the shape of a row of sharp spikes or thorns that run up their tail and along the middle of their back.

Skates have thorns at the end of their tails which are used as defense against predators
Skates have thorns at the end of their tails which are used as a defense against predators


Diet

Skates are opportunistic eaters, meaning they will consume almost everything they come across. They like a range of fish species, including herring, mackerel, and cod, as well as crabs, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, squid, and small sharks. Skates acquire their prey through a unique eating habit known as suction feeding. They suck in their food from the ocean floor by creating a vacuum with their mouth.

Reproduction

Different species have different mating habits. All species, however, lay distinct egg casings known as Mermaid’s Purses after mating. These eggs are rectangular and black, with arm-like projections. Some Mermaid’s Purses contain a single juvenile skate, but a single egg case can produce up to seven juvenile skates. The time these egg casings take to hatch varies depending on the species.

A mermaid's purse is a protective shell that covers skate eggs, which can take up to a year to hatch
A mermaid’s purse is a protective shell that covers skate eggs, which can take up to a year to hatch


Species

There are over 150 species of skate, which are different in size and shape, including common skate, Pacific white skate, Arctic skates, etc.

Threats

Threats faced by skates include:

  • Habitat destruction
  • Overfishing
  • Natural predators include Sharks and large carnivores fishes


Stingrays

Appearance

Stingrays are part of the suborder Myliobatoidei and have long, flat fins that run throughout their bodies, giving them a matte roundish appearance. Some stingrays swim by moving their whole body in a wavy pattern that pushes them through the water. Other species “fly” through the water by flapping their fins like bird wings.

Stingrays have venomous barbs or stings at their tails
Stingrays have flat disk-like bodies with venomous barbs or stings at their tails

Stingrays have a long whip-like tail with a sharp barb, or stinger, which gives them their name. The barb on the end of a stingray’s tail is incredibly poisonous and serves as a protective mechanism for the animal. Because stingrays are toxic, their stings are often lethal to people.

The stingray barb is a distinctive weapon that attaches to its victim and spreads poison through the mucus coating on the barb
The stingray barb is a distinctive weapon that attaches to its victim and spreads poison through the mucus coating on the barb


Diet

Stingrays are carnivorous and, like other carnivores, prefer to devour anything smaller than themselves. They consume organisms that dwell on or beneath the sand, such as worms, clams, oysters, sea-snail, and shrimp.

The majority of bottom-dwelling rays will eat via ambush. They sit on the ground and wait for prey to approach before lifting off the bottom in a tent form. This creates a suction effect, attracting the quarry to its mouth. When the quarry comes, they employ electrical sensors in their Lorenzini ampullae to detect it.

Reproduction

The reproductive strategy of each stingray species differs substantially. Some reproduce in big groups, while others mate with anybody they seem to come across. All species are ovoviviparous, which means their eggs grow within their bodies until they hatch and give birth to live offspring. Some animals can retain sperm for extended periods and give birth without a male.

Species

There are around 600 species of rays found across the world. Rays come in various shapes and sizes, including stingrays, electric rays, butterfly rays, round rays, manta rays, guitarfish, and sawfish.

Manta rays are one of the bigger species of stingrays, with a wingspan of 29 feet
Manta rays are one of the bigger species of stingrays, with a wingspan of 29 feet


Threats

Stingray’s natural predators include sharks, seals, sea lions, and other large fishes. Other dangers that stingrays have include:

  • Overfishing
  • Habitat loss
  • Climate Change


FAQs

Skate vs stingray: which one is more dangerous?

Stingrays are more dangerous, as their tails have venomous barbs in them. Most injuries occur when a human accidentally walks on a stingray and retaliates in self-defense using its thorny tail.

Are stingrays edible?

Stingray is a delicious fish. It’s safe, with a moderate flavor and soft texture. Like other popular fish such as; mahi-mahi and bass, stingrays are cooked in a sort of way.

Do skates and stingrays belong to the same class?

Both stingrays and skates are members of the Chondrichthyes class, then they differ. Stingrays are classified as Myliobatiformes, whereas skates are classified as Rajiformes.

About Ocean Info

At Ocean Info, we dive deep into ocean-related topics such as sealife, exploration of the sea, rivers, areas of geographical importance, sailing, and more.

We achieve this by having the best team create content - this ranges from marine experts, trained scuba divers, marine-related enthusiasts, and more.

Sea Anemone with Clownfish

Dive into more, the ocean is more than just a surface view

Bottlenose dolphins are known to help stranded humans back to the shore

8 of the Most Intelligent Marine Animals

From dolphins' awe-inspiring communication skills to orcas' social complexity, the ocean is home to some of the most intelligent marine animals.

Share to...