When you set out on your Key West snorkeling adventure, you will surely be greeted by stingrays. Don’t worry about being viewed as dinner as these flat cousins of the shark prefer a seafood diet.
Meet the Stingrays
Bluntnose stingray: This stingray is so named because of its slight protuberance. You will generally find bluntnose rays under the sand where they blend in and can feast on crustaceans, fish and worms. Females reach 2 feet in width while males are about 10 inches smaller.
Cownose rays: These fish are in the same family as eagle rays and are probably the friendliest of the bunch. Brown cownose rays grow up to about 45 inches wide and have a barbed tail they use to defend themselves when threatened.
Smooth butterfly rays: A grin from this short-tailed diamond-shaped fish will reveal 8 to 9 rows of up to more than 200 teeth. Smooth butterfly boast spots on their smooth brown, gray or light green skin and can reach 3 to 4 feet wide.
Manta rays: The largest of the rays is the manta, which has a short tail but a massive white, black, blue or gray body that can reach up to 30 feet wide. These graceful swimmers tend to cruise alone.
Spotted eagle rays: It’s hard to miss this elegant ray that can grow up to 8 feet long (plus an 8-foot tail) and nearly 10 feet wide. That’s a lot of surface for the white, yellow, greenish or bluish spots that adorn the dark gray, brown, or black skin. You are most likely to see these rays in schools in open water or when they leap out of the water. Spotted eagle rays are timid, but a tail strike can cause significant wounds.