#45 First Day of Spring...and Cownose Rays

The first day of spring brought us beautiful weather conditions and an array of interesting sightings. We spotted an unidentified shark (which we believe could have been a thresher shark based on its size and appearance), a leatherback sea turtle, and 3 right whale mom/calf pairs all within approximately 1 nautical mile of each other. We also observed 7 groups of cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus). While it is not atypical to see cownose rays this time of year in the Central EWS area, this was our first sighting of the season.

Since we broke track for one of these sightings, we were able to snap a few quick photos of the rays before returning to our survey, one of which you can see below. From a distance, these groups of rays, which varied from 50-150 individuals, look similar to water lilies floating on the surface of the water.

Cownose rays (aka: cowfish and skeete) get their name because of their squared, indented snout that resembles a cow’s nose. Their wingspan can reach up to 3 feet in length and they can weigh up to 50 pounds. Their distribution includes a large part of the western Atlantic (from New England to Florida), the Gulf of Mexico, and they can migrate as far south as Brazil. As migratory animals, it is believed that they move north in the spring and south in the fall in the Atlantic. So, perhaps the rays that we saw on the first day of spring were heading north. Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status, cownose rays are listed as "near-threatened". This means that although they do not qualify for "threatened" status, they could be considered threatened in the near future and the population should be re-evaluated regularly.


Learn how divers care for the cownose rays in the Giant Ocean Tank at the Aquarium! And here is an interesting video of the Aquarium's cownose ray swimming in the GOT.


  1. WOW! Amazing photo!

  2. That's really cool. I enjoy these updates. Kind of cheesey to put the big NEAQ water mark on the photo though. Who would steal your little 200 pixel tall picture? Actually think you should link to a bigger version (without a watermark) so we can really check it out. That's what most sites do these days.

  3. Hi Ben,

    Thank you for the compliment on our photograph. I would like to address the issues you have with our policy for sharing photographs. I am not sure why this photograph does not link to a larger (watermarked) version. Most of the other photographs on our blog do just that. I will look into this problem and see if I can fix this issue. As for the watermark issue, we have had situations where our photographs have ended up on blogs and social sites where no credit was given to us. The watermark is our way of insuring that our photos are always associated with our research.

    I am sorry that you do not like the watermarked version, but it is our policy and unfortunately, I cannot change it.

  4. Hi Ben,

    I would like to inform you that the issue with the photo linking to a larger size has been resolved. I also lightened the watermark.

  5. maybe you guys (the NEAQ) could maybe create a wallpaper page - i know for myself i'd love some of your great pix to be able to use as my desktop wallpaper. maybe put a watermark in the corner or the NEAQ logo or something?

    love the blogs!

  6. This is really cool. I have seen some up close pictures of this, but it is great to see it from far away! It's really beautiful.