by Youth Ocean Advocate Nadine W.
Pacific electric rays are an amazing species. You may not know about the only electric ray found off West Coast of North America, so here are some facts that might just blow your mind.
The electric organ discharge of one large pacific electric ray was measured to be 50 volts! To catch prey, first they use their electroreceptors to identify the prey’s location, then they lunge forward and quickly envelop the prey in their disk, shocking it with electricity before chomping down with their sharp teeth. The rays can have a little under 30 small teeth on both the upper and lower jaws which are “distensible.” They can stretch and open wide to swallow prey nearly half their length, which is considerable. Females can get as long as four and a half feet, males are a little smaller at 3 feet max.
So what creatures need to worry about attack from this master predator? Mostly smaller fish, like mackerel, rockfish, herring, and anchovies, though the electric ray will also eat invertebrates and cephalopods (like squid) if necessary.
They are “ovoviviparous”. This means that eggs hatch while still inside the mother, then will be born afterwards. This is a trait shared by some species of sharks, including dogfish, which we have on exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium.
The pacific electric ray is neutrally buoyant alloying it to hover in the same spot underwater with ease. This also helps when silently stalking prey at night.
What do humans use this species for? Scientific research, but not much else. Sometimes they will be caught accidentally by fishermen looking to catch other species.
The pacific electric ray is not known to have caused any human fatalities, though the chock generated by the ray can be enough to knock down an adult human.
The pacific electric ray is not endangered. It’s marked as a species of “least concern” by the Red List of Threatened Species. It can be found from British Columbia in Canada down to California. And it has been sighted all over the Salish Sea, from the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Straight of Georgia to Bellingham Bay to the Puget Sound and the Hood Canal.
You’ll have to diving yourself to see this amazing species in person, but watch out!