Stingrays Recorded Making Sounds for the Very First Time

Animals

| LAST UPDATE 08/16/2022

By Hayden Katz
stingray animal sound research
Hoberman Collection / Contributor via Getty Images

While some sea animals like whales, shrimp snap, and toadfish are known to hum and make noises, the stingray hasn't - that was until now. A study conducted by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that two types of flat fish are able to make a striking 'click.' Here's everything they know so far.

Videos from the research study revealed that the mangrove whipray stingray (Urogymnus granulatus) and cowtail stingray (Pastinachus ater), both native to the Indo-West Pacific, are the ones that produce the sound. According to the lead marine ecologist of the study, Lachlan Fetterplace, it was actually so loud that at one point, the cameraman was so taken aback by the sound that he accidentally dropped his camera. So why exactly, up until now, have experts believed this animal to be a silent one? Especially since so many divers and scientists spend time in the water, and yet they hadn't heard a peep from stingrays. "That's kind of the strange thing," Fetterplace says. "I dive a lot with some other species of rays, and now I'm second-guessing myself. Could I have missed this?"

stingray sound science news
GABRIEL BOUYS / Staff via Getty Images
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The researcher understood that, at the end of the day, the ocean is a massive body, and we as humans are not even close to understanding everything about it and the species that live there. “This just shows we don’t know everything,” he added. “We’re in the year 2022, and you can discover something no one has ever seen just by going out and doing observations in natural history.”

So how exactly can stingrays produce noises? "They don't have vocal cords, and there's no clear mechanism for how they do it," Fetterplace said. But in the video clips from the study that was published recently in the journal Ecology, the stingray's spiracles, a.k.a. the two holes on their heads, can be seen moving water across their gills. It looks like as spiracles contract, the sound is being made. This suggests they could be causing friction between the spiracles and the surrounding tissue, similar to when we snap our fingers to produce a clicking sound. But another suggestion, as Fetterplace explained, is that the stingrays are creating sounds by creating a vacuum, like when we click our tongues. 

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