Many people are terrified of stingrays because of their reputation for stinging people with their barbs. But most don’t know that these gentle creatures are actually shy, not aggressive, and generally harmless.
Yes, stingrays do have a barb that they use to defend themselves from predators such as sharks and sea lions, but they rarely sting humans.
Often the only time humans are stung by stingrays is if they accidentally step on one whilst the ray is buried in the sand, or if they swim directly over the ray and it feels intimidated.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the stingray’s mouth, and answer a question many of our readers ask. Can stingrays bite?
Yes, stingrays can bite people. However, this is incredibly rare as their primary defense mechanism is their barb. Stingrays don’t have sharp teeth either, often they are flattened, so a bite, although would be painful, would likely not result in a lost finger.
Do Stingrays Have Teeth?
It may come as a surprise to many, but stingrays actually do have teeth. Most of the year they have blunt, flat teeth that they use for cracking open mollusks such as crabs and clams.
However, when breeding season comes, male stingrays’ teeth sharpen, so that they are able to bite the female as part of their mating rituals.
Female stingrays have flattened teeth year-round. They mostly feed on the bottom of the ocean floor so need teeth in order to pick up and eat food.
They have loose jaws that allow them to chew up and down, as well as side to side. They chew very similar to how a cow chews whilst grazing in a field.
Do Stingrays Bite People?
Stingrays do not bite people, and one of the only circumstances you may find yourself being bitten is when feeding a stingray that is in captivity.
The chances of being bitten by a stingray in the wild are incredibly slim, they use their teeth strictly for feeding.
Even if bitten by a stingray, providing it is not a male that is in the breeding season, the ray’s teeth are not sharp like say a sharks, and instead are blunt, so it would not be as painful as other a bite from other species.
How Do Stingrays Attack People?
Stingrays typically don’t attack people, they are not the aggressive animals that people sometimes think they are. They are generally shy, gentle animals that are not out to attack people.
That said if provoked or threatened they do have a venomous barb that is more than capable of killing a person.
When a stingray attacks, it will whip its tail at you and one or more of its spines may pierce your skin.
The sheath around the spine then breaks apart and releases venom into the wound and surrounding tissues.
The good news is that death from a stingray is incredibly rare, largely because the venom they contain is generally not lethal to humans.
That said, if stung in the heart or chest, the force is enough to kill a human, which is why being cautious around stingrays is essential.
Most stingray strings happen around the legs, ankles, and feet. This is because they can often hide in shallow waters buried in the sand.
When unsuspecting swimmers accidentally step on a hidden stingray, the ray feels like it’s under attack and will strike.
Why Do Stingrays Attack People?
As mentioned earlier, stingray attacks on humans are incredibly rare. Worldwide, there are only around two fatal stingray attacks each year, and given the number of rays in our waters, this is very low.
The most common reason for stingray attacks on humans is swimmers accidentally standing on stingrays whilst in shallow waters.
That said, stingrays may also attack if they feel threatened, provoked, or intimidated. They do not like swimmers coming too close to them and certainly not swimming directly above them.
In most cases, you can avoid being stung by a stingray by respecting their boundaries and being aware of where they may be in the water.
These are not aggressive animals that are not out to harm people, but as with all wild animals they need to be respected and admired from a distance.
What To Do If Stung By A Stingray?
If you do happen to find yourself being stung by a stingray, you must call the emergency services immediately to receive medical support.
Whilst an ambulance is on the way or after receiving medical advice, you should proceed to bathe the wound in seawater and try to remove any pieces that are in your skin.
Stop any bleeding and ensure the wound is as clean as possible.
So, can stingrays bite? Yes, it is possible for them to bite but they do not bite people. Stingrays use their flattened teeth to feed on prey such as crabs and clams.
They do not use their teeth to bite or attack people, and instead have a barb that is much more useful for defending themselves against predators.
Stingrays rarely attack people in any regard, they are shy, timid creatures that will most likely flee from humans if they get too close for comfort.
Despite stingrays often being portrayed as deadly killers, the chances of dying from a stingray attack are incredibly slim, largely because their venom is not deadly to humans.
When people do die from humans, it’s usually because they are stung by a ray that has a huge barb, and the force of the barb entering the body in the chest area can be enough to pierce the heart and kill a human.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned a thing or two about stingrays today.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share it with others that may find it useful.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.