Are stingrays related to sharks?

English: Various types shown. Taken at Mote Ma...

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Stingrays and sharks are very closely related. They belong to a group of fishes called the elasmobranchs. All elasmobranchs have 1) skeletons made of cartilage (the flexible material that makes up the tip of our nose and ears) and 2) 5-7 gill slits. Elasmobrachs includes sharks, rays, and skates.

It’s not entirely incorrect to think of stingrays as flattened sharks. On the inside, they’re just about the same. There are some animals that blur the lines between the two. Angel sharks and wobbegongs are flat, but they’re not rays. Then there are sawfish (which are rays) and sawsharks (which are sharks). Sharkrays are just plain confused. As a general rule, if the gill slits are on the bottom, it’s a ray. If they’re on the side, it’s a shark.

Jim Wharton
Vice President, Education Division, Director, Center for School and Public Programs, Mote Marine Laboratory

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  1. Jenny Stephenson says:

    Missing link in the Chesapeake Bay?: Ever heard of an elasmobranch with a shark-like double row of teeth & a spinelike tail terminating in a stinger?:

    Description when alive: large goggling eyes projecting from either side of a blunt snout above a mouth with a double row of scary looking, sharklike teeth; thick, black, glistening body 4 ft long.; long, thrashing, ropelike tail terminating in a ray-like weapon; membraneous fins “…that looked like bat wings…” attached to the body well down toward the tail.

    After this adult was killed, two (foot long) juveniles detached themselves from beneath the folded fins of the adult* (!!) and flopped about the deck lashing their long tails. Juveniles died shortly thereafter.

    (*Interesting because neither sharks nor rays are supposed to care for their young.)

    These animals were caught by an experienced waterman– one Captain William Moody, a lighthouse keeper on Lightship 49 anchored off Cape Charles at the mouth of the Chesapeake bay in 1901. Definitely not cownose rays. The animals were caught at a depth of 50 feet (a couple of feet from the bed) and examined by H.K. Brooks, the chair of Biology at Johns Hopkins University and numerous other scientists. Brooks opined at the time (1901) that it was some sort of stingray. The news article doesn’t state where the gills were.

    When did scientists learn that sharks and rays are related? Could this have been a missing link?

  2. Jenny Stephenson says:

    Re: last comment, part about juveniles detaching from fins of the adult: rather than being an example of a skate or ray caring for its young: on second thought, this looks more like a pregnant female was probably near term, became stressed when she was brought out of the water on a hook, and gave birth.

  3. Dear, Person
    I’m a big fan of sharks and marine life, and I’m glad that u told me aboutthis because I was wondering after my mother came home from being in Las Vegas and she went to the aquariam and got me a stuffed Stingray (when I meen stuffed I meen teddy bear stuffed) and I was wondering “Is a Stingray a shark?” So thank you for answering my question even though I didn’t really ask but thank you anyways.

  4. Paris summers says:

    Sorry about the mistakes in my comment. 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful day….. ok bye.

  5. I was sort of right.

  6. This was very interesting. I never realized that ray and sharks were related to begin with. I also find it interesting that the gill placement is what separates their category. I’d think body shape would have been the deciding factor. And I have to ask … what is a skate?

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