Outdoors just for kids: Chilean devil rays are deep

2014-07-10T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Chilean devil rays are deep The Billings Gazette

Chilean devil rays are deeper thinkers than scientists had believed.

Devil rays are cousins to sharks. Like sharks, they live in the ocean and have no bones in their bodies, only cartilage — which is the stuff that makes your ears stick out.

Even though they are distantly related, rays don’t look like sharks. Instead, they look like big, swimming bats. Their “wings” are actually fins that they flap to swim. Big rays can be 13 feet across. They got the name devil ray because of the horn-shaped fins on their heads that they use to funnel food into their mouths.

Since rays are often seen in shallow areas near the water’s surface, scientists used to think they were going there to cool off, but new research says they may instead be trying to warm up.

Scientists put tracking devices in 15 Chilean devil rays that lived in the North Atlantic Ocean to see where they went. The tags stayed on for nine months and then popped loose, floated to the surface and sent their information to computers.

When the scientists downloaded the data they got some surprises. The devil rays were diving at speeds up to about 13 mph and sometimes swimming more than a mile deep into really cold water that was only a few degrees above freezing — no wonder they need to warm up! From this information, scientists now know they are one of the deepest diving ocean animals.

While scientists don’t know why the rays are diving so deep, they suspect that the rays are feeding on large numbers of fish that live in deeper waters.

— Brett French,

Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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