Kapala Stingaree, Urolophus kapalensis

The Kapala stingaree (Urolophus kapalensis) is unique to southeastern Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, inhabiting inshore waters from depths of 33 to 427 feet. It prefers rocky reefs, sandy bottoms and seagrass beds.

The disc of this species is diamond-shaped with rounded outer corners and slightly wider than it is long. It has a fleshy protruding snout with a small mouth containing five to seven nipple-like structures arranged in a W-shaped pattern on the lower jaw as well as the teeth being arranged in a quincunx (a die five) pattern — there are 25 on the upper jaw and 31 to 32 on the lower.

The eyes are medium-sized followed by teardrop-shaped air holes. Between the nostrils is a bell-shaped layer of skin with fringed corners elongated into lobes. It has five pairs of gill slits in the shape of an S. The tail measures 82 to 90 percent as long as the disc and ends in a leaf-shaped tail fin. Halfway on the top of the tail is a thin serrated stinging spine and a low fin just in front of it.

It is usually a shade of green above and becoming a pink shade toward the disc margins. Variable patterns of dark markings cover the top with a V-shaped bar between the eyes and blotches around the eyes and in the center of the disc that gradually form into stripes at the tail. These markings are not typical in all individuals where some may be completely black. The largest known Kapala stingaree is 20 inches long.

The primary food is benthic shrimp and amphipods, but will also feed on small fish, crab, polychaete worms and isopods. The embryo gets its nutrition from the mother’s uterine milk and only a single pup is born.

The low reproductive rate, small distribution and incidentally being caught by trawlers, the population is on a decline and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has the Kapala stingaree listed as near threatened.

Image Caption: Kapala stingaree (Urolophus kapalensis). Credit: Taso Viglas /Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)