Dasyatis pastinaca is a species of elasmobranch belonging to the order Myliobatiformes and to the family Dasyatidae. It is a species of ray that inhabits sandy and/or muddy bottoms from shallow waters up to 200 meters deep, although it is more common at depths of less than 60 meters. Its geographical distribution includes the entire Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Black Sea, and in the Atlantic Ocean we can find it from the coasts of Norway to Morocco, being present in Madeira as well as in the Canary Islands.
Known as common stingray, Dasyatis pastinaca does not usually exceed 2 meters in total wingspan, of which its tail represents slightly more than half of the total length. The body is diamond-shaped, with the front edges practically straight and the rear edges slightly convex. Its head has a low profile, and its height is less than the maximum height of the specimen. We highlight some yellowish spots around the eyes, except for the specimens present in the Atlantic Ocean. Its pectoral fins meet at the level of the snout to form a rather pronounced pseudorostrum. The dorsal surface of the disc is smooth and uniformly dark brown to olive green in color, with the ventral part being white and dark at the margins. Both eyes and spiracles are located dorsally. It has no dorsal or caudal fins. It has a flexible tail, without tubercles and circular in section. Approximately halfway down the tail and dorsally, it has a toxic sting approximately 10-12 cm long, which it will use defensively when it feels threatened. This spine may occasionally be shed and replaced. Although the venom of the spine is not fatal, it causes intense pain and serious injuries due to the tearing produced by the serrated edges of the sting on the victim. If we continue along the tail, just after the end of the spine, we will find on the ventral side of the tail, a dark and relatively short membranous fin.
Dasyatis pastinaca is a nocturnal species, which during the day will remain buried in the sand. At night, it is much more active, and will move around looking for its prey, among which we find coelenterates, jellyfish, crustaceans, molluscs, cephalopods and pisciforms.
In the Mediterranean it can be confused with Dasyatis centoaura, which is similar in shape and color. The difference lies in the presence of tubercular protuberances on the central surface of the disc of the individual and/or large spines present on the tail, especially at the base of the tail (Dasyatis centoaura), or the absence of protuberances on both the disc and tail of the individual (Dasyatis pastinaca). It can also be confused with Pteroplatytrygon violacea, although its color as its name indicates tends to be more purplish-brownish both dorsally and ventrally. Additionally, the outline of the disc is convex on the anterior part.
Its reproduction is ovoviviparous, producing between 4 and 7 offspring, and with a fairly short gestation period (4 months) compared to other ray species, which allows it to reproduce twice a year.
Dasyatis pastinaca is on the IUCN red list as a vulnerable species, due to overfishing mainly in the Mediterranean Sea.Photos: