Blotched Fantail Ray – Taeniura meyeni
The Blotched Fantail Ray has a large, distinctive, circular grey disc, with mottled black markings and is easy to recognise in natural habitat.
The species grows to 330 cm (10 ft) and is found all across tropical and sub-tropical regions throughout the Indo-Pacific. It seems to be very common around offshore islands and cays in Australia and is often followed around by schools of Yellowtail Kingfish.
Observations at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef have shown that a smaller individual Ray of undetermined species may ‘ride’ on the Blotched Fantail Ray’s back, and also lays on the Ray when it is down on the bottom.
As huge as this Ray was, it has allowed me to get within 34 cm (1 ft) with the 15 mm Nikonos because I approached at its own level and just inched my way forward, pulling myself along with my dive knife.
As I took the shot, the Ray just moved its tail into view and raised it slightly and I knew it was time to back off. I wiggled my way backwards away from the Ray and the tail was lowered.
Absolutely brilliant, it was humped up during feeding and it just lay there and looked at me until its critical distance zone was penetrated, and then; the warning! There was little danger to me, as the Ray had plenty of escape routes all around it.
Rays are such fabulous photogenic subjects when they are swimming, but to capture them at their best with a wide angle lens, one has to be, close!
This one was photographed at the wreck of the "Yongala" off Townsville, Queensland, Australia, one of the best and most exciting underwater wildlife shows, anywhere in the world.
Unlike some Stingrays, this large species appears to be of solitary nature and does not congregate in groups, or schools. When feeding in Sea Grass meadows and on sandy, or rubble bottom it is able to excavate huge hollows over a wide area and at some localities appears to favour certain locations for feeding.
Each Blotched Fantail Ray has an individual pattern of spotting on the back and once photographed, an individual can be recognised visually and recorded whenever it is seen in an area.
This image shows how a big Blotched Fantail Ray reacts to having a diver approach from the front, and me, hovering to the side (but behind it). The Ray only raised its tail to the approaching diver as the diver move nearer its critical distance zone. Then I got a series of shots I’d been waiting to get for years; the perfect reaction, showing the warning, and just how the Ray strikes. We both backed off and the Stingray’s tail was lowered.
I took up diving to face my fears and to learn the language of the sea, and I have faced thousands of dangerous and venomous creatures over 40 years, without even a scar to show for my experiences. Once you study the language of the sea, and are aware of the signals, the rest is just nature in the raw.
The spine of a big Stingray is a very serious weapon. Deep penetration wounds usually result in the barb breaking off in the body, but this is not always the case, as it depends on whether the penetration area is soft tissue or muscle. The venom is proteinous and lies in grooves along the barb. Once the integument sheath around the barb is broken by the impact this highly reactive, extremely virulent venom comes in direct contact with the casualty’s body fluids and begins to dissolve into the wound causing immediate and extreme pain.
Even with medical attention, ulceration, infection, long term pain, protracted healing, immune system breakdown, amputation and years of suffering have been recorded. However, none of my injuries were serious and had any complications except it took a while for the broken off spines to be rejected by my heel.
Large barbed tail spine, highly venomous.
Never approach this species from above, or hem it in. In general, Stingrays strike towards their front (similar to a scorpion) when harassed, shot, line-caught, trawled, or frightened. Most so-called attacks have only been due to a defence reaction when being speared, or gaffed or a panicked reaction when cornered. It is possible to swim with them as long as it is not too close and from the side at their horizontal plane.
SPINE INJURY: SYMPTOMS:
The excessive pain of the wound, and the nature of the venom mean that casualty is generally traumatised. Wound may include the barb, or part thereof and remnants of the integument. Pain will continue as long as venom remains in the wound. Swelling will occur together with the bluish edge reminiscent of this kind of injury. Bleeding may be restricted due to retention of the barb, or profuse bleeding if a slashing injury.
Rescue the casualty.
Reassure and reduce shock.
If possible, barb and related debris should be removed. However, as Stingray and Stingaree barbs have backward facing spines designed to go in and stay in, removal may be difficult without minor surgery
Casualty should be laid down with the affected part in an elevated position
Washing to remove any venom should clean the wound. Bleeding (non-excessive) will wash out some of the venom as it is water-soluble
The pain caused by Stingray and Stingaree venom is reduced by the application of heat. If possible the wound can be immersed in hot water (non-scalding) for up to one hour or until the pain subsides. Care must be taken not to scald the injury and it is best if the heated water is first applied at a lower temperature an then added to as tolerance allows. If the injury is in an area that cannot be immersed then hot towels are also effective in reducing pain (heat is the effective ingredient)
Seek urgent Emergency Service Assistance
Several deaths and many gaping wounds have resulted from this type of injury. In general, the wound is open, similar to a knife slash.
Shock, severe bleeding.FIRST AID MANAGEMENT:
Remove patient from the water. Reassure the patient.
Initiate treatment immediately; do not attempt to transfer.
Control bleeding by applying direct pressure above, or on a bleeding artery.
If the injury is on a limb, a tourniquet may be used.
Pressure by hand, bandages, clothing, or towels can be employed.
Check position of patient and ensure the head is lowermost: cover with towel, or clothing.
Should the patient be wearing a wetsuit, leave it on.
Do not move the patient and contact medical personnel such as a doctor, or ambulance ASAP.
- Provide no liquids, or foods to the patient.
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