Little Ray Stingray and Shark Book
July 2017 by V. R. Duin


Sometimes when we trip or fumble,
Teamwork may just stop our stumble.
That's why we must always show respect
To help that comes as we least expect.
(“Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up”)

“Fishy Fish” expands the information in the children's book,“Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up”, to help children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between these fish relatives.

“Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up” is a stingray and shark book for children. Like Fishy Fish, the book helps children compare stingrays and sharks and learn the differences between these fish relatives. Stingrays and sharks are relatives with a lot in common. However, there are differences that make it hard for these family members to get along. Curiously, some sharks eat plants and grasses. Stingrays are strict carnivores. Whoever would have guessed?

Stingrays and sharks are fish. These fish relatives do not have bones. Instead, they are made of cartilage. Sawfish, guitarfish and skates are in the same family as sharks and stingrays. The illustrations in Little Ray's stingray and shark book for children make it easy to compare stingrays and sharks. These illustrations make a lot of things clear about the similarities and differences in the appearance of these fishy fish. The appearance of the electric ray differs from that of the stingray. Its defense mechanism of electric shock is unlikely to be deadly for a healthy adult human. However, it can kill a shark.

Stingrays do not look or swim like sharks, or most other fish. Some stingrays move their flat, rounded bodies through the water in a wavy motion. Others flap their fins like bird wings, and soar through the water. Electric rays propel themselves with the movement of their tails. Sharks also use their tails to propel themselves through the water. Stingrays swim with their fins. Sharks generally cruise at a leisurely speed that shows their swimming command of the water. Stingrays are elegant movers. Electric rays tend to be slow and sluggish swimmers.

Since sharks do not thrive in captivity, their speeds have not been precisely measured. In any event, stingrays and sharks in captivity have little reason to reach top speeds. Moreover, there are many different species of stingrays and sharks. As children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between these fish relatives, they learn each of these fishy fish has different swimming speeds and styles. Electric rays, catfish and eels are of interest to humans, due to their electric shock ability. However, each of these fish largely are disinterested in humans. As with stingray venom, the electric charges omitted by these animals have been used as experimental cures and instruments of torture, throughout the ages.

A stingray's mouth is under its body, as are its nostrils and gills. The eyes are on the top of the body. Although their eyesight is weak, this eye position helps stingrays keep watch while they are partially hidden in the ocean floor. This is how these fishy fish spend most of their time. Sharks spend most of their time on the move, hunting for prey. Unlike the eyes of stingrays, sharks' eyes are on the sides and very useful for spotting food. A shark's mouth also is located below its skull, but it is generally larger and more destructive than that of a stingray. Electric currents can be detected by electric rays, stingrays and sharks on the prowl for hidden prey.

These fishy fish relatives have tongue-like structures, but their taste buds are located throughout their mouths. These structures are called “basihyals”. They are positioned on the floor of the mouth, but they are generally small and made of cartilage. Taste buds are located throughout the mouths and throats of these fish relatives. Taste buds help stingrays and sharks decide whether to swallow prey. Stingrays and sharks are food tasting and processing machines. These fishy fish also can vomit to rid themselves of indigestible food or to make room for the next meal. As children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between them, they also learn how fish compare to and differ from people.

Sharks spend most of their time on the prowl for food. Their hunts take them to shallow and deep waters. Along the way, sharks eat a variety of foods, including fish, squid and mammals, be these living, dying or dead. Sharks can handle large bites and deep ocean depths. Like sharks, some stingrays are swimmers that hunt for small fish and other foods in the water. However, most stingrays are bottom feeders that poke around in the sand or wait for food to come their way. Stingrays are masters of ambush. These fishy fish have openings like some spiders, insects and whales. Called spiracles, these openings aid in breathing, but they also may aid in identifying the presence of prey.

Unlike sharks, stingrays generally stay in shallow waters. Fortunately, there are plenty of fish in their hunting grounds. These fishy fish dine on snails, crabs, worms, clams and other creatures they stir up from the ocean floor. Stingrays have hard plates to crush their food. Unlike sharks, stingrays prefer small, fresh, live catches. However, in captivity, stingrays learn to eat processed foods. As children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between these fish relatives, they also learn a lot about animal habits and survival. Electric rays are nocturnal hunters. Their days are spent hiding in the sand.

While hunting, stingrays, electric rays and sharks improve their effectiveness with electro-receptors that detect electrical charges emitted by their prey. A group of sharks is called a shiver, which makes sense. Sharks hunt and catch prey in the water and in the air. The bite of a shark can be very dangerous to humans. A group of stingrays is called a fever, which also makes sense. A fever can result from infections caused by a stingray's stinging barb or as a reaction to the stingray venom. The shock from an electric ray may knock a human down, causing him or her to drown. Otherwise, the shock is likely to be painful, but not deadly to otherwise healthy adults.

The bites of a stingray are fairly mild and may not leave any marks. Electric rays also use their teeth largely for chewing food, rather than for self-defense or to attack prey or predators. The bites of a shark tend to be sharp and may not leave anything behind. A stingray might shed an occasional tooth, while crunching food with hard shells. That tooth will be replaced. As children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between these fishy fish relatives, they learn lifespan of stingrays is significantly shorter and they shed far fewer teeth than their shark relatives. Stingray and shark teeth, denticles and taste buds are genetically linked to the same regenerative cells, which means they can grow more of these cells.

Sharks are in serious need of a tooth fairy, as they shed tens of thousands of teeth in their lifetimes, which can span one hundred years or more. Greenland sharks smash longevity records with lifespans that may reach 400 years. Sharks' teeth are longer versions of the dermal “denticles” covering their bodies. Shark teeth are arranged in rows that slowly move forward from the back of the jaw to the front. As the front teeth wear out or fall out, new rows move from behind to replace them. These shark teeth replacements happen about every two weeks.

Different sharks have different shaped teeth depending on what food they eat. Sharks that eat shellfish and crabs have flat crushing teeth. Sharks that eat fish have pointed teeth and those that sometimes eat seals and sea lions have razor sharp teeth. Some rays and sharks have sucking mouth parts instead of teeth. Stingray teeth are small and flat. Their teeth also are replaced much like sharks' teeth. There is a strong association between eating and tasting. Ancient members of this species may have had jaws that evolved into the formation of teeth. Electric rays have rows of small teeth that are sharper than those of stingrays.

Sharks and stingrays have scales that are made of the same structure as their teeth and stinging spines. The skin of electric rays is smooth and untextured. Some sharks have stinging spines, but the location is different from that of stingrays. The scales of these cartilaginous fish are called dermal “denticles”. The scales are arranged in a regular pattern in sharks and in an irregular pattern in stingrays. Shark scales feel like sandpaper to human touch. Because the bumps in sharkskin tend to repel germs, a company named Sharklet Technologies, Inc. is creating plastic wraps designed with bumpy sharkskin-like scales to fend off sources of infection in medical settings.

Unlike other types of fish scales, the scales of stingrays and sharks do not get larger as the fish grows. Instead, the fish grows more scales to fill in the larger space. In primitive times, shark skin was used as sandpaper. However, it can be hazardous to produce, so it is no longer commonly used for this purpose. If the dermal “denticles” are removed, shark skin may be used to make leather products. Unsurprisingly, the dermal “denticles” of a shark can injure prey. The skin of electric rays is soft and flabby without denticles or horns.

Stingrays prefer shallow waters that are near shore. They migrate to warm parts of the world. Sharks also migrate to warmer temperatures, but they are known to swim to deep, dark, cold depths. Stingrays and sharks are typically lone hunters, but they do come together for group migrations, group hunts and mating purposes. Like stingrays, sharks may come close to shore and some species cruise along the water surface. Since most fish are cold-blooded, they take on the temperature of their environment. Electric rays are widely distributed from shallow waters along shorelines to oceanic waters of great depth. Like stingrays, they are largely bottom-feeders.

As any swimmer or scuba diver knows, water drains body heat faster than air does. Wet suits and heated pools are used for human protection. Sharks have the ability to elevate the temperature of some of their body parts for protection during deep, cold hunts. Stingrays do not have this ability, but they generally stay in warm, shallow waters. As children compare stingrays and sharks and explore the differences between these fishy fish relatives, they also learn a lot about the ocean environment. As children explore the differences between these shark relatives, they can bust some myths about Sharks and Rays. Once rays and sharks are understood, children might want to further study electric rays, about which little is known.

Not all stingrays or sharks are dangerous to people, but sharks have frightening reputations. The most aggressive sharks are considered to be the Great White Shark, the Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark. It is rare for stingrays and sharks to get along. Little Ray and the shark in his adventure work hard to develop and encourage teamwork. There is a lot of diversity among stingrays and sharks. As adults, these fish relatives can weigh from a less than pound to many tons, depending on the species. However, size is no predictor of the scale of danger among these fishy fish. Electric rays can scale their shock levels depending upon whether they want to deter or kill a potential predator.

Thailand is the place to see whale sharks. Considered the largest fish in the world, they are huge, but not dangerous. These gigantic fishy fish dwarf humans in size, but they eat plankton. To eat enough of this microscopic food to survive, the whale shark does not passively filter food. It pumps food into its mouth. Nobody knows how many giant oceanic manta rays remain in the wild. Similar to the whale shark, manta rays are grand in size. Instead of teeth, they use sucking parts in their mouths to filter plankton and other food particles from the water while swimming. Unlike stingrays, the mouth of a manta is in front of its body.

Fishy Fish Comments

  • stingray and shark together admin says:

    These fish relatives can be purchased from tropical fish stores, but stingrays and sharks don't belong in the same aquarium.

  • stingray and shark book for children admin says:

    In Little Ray's book about stingrays and sharks for children, these fish relatives travel together, so children can compare them.

    • encouraging teamworkadmin says:

      Encounters with sharks generally require protective equipment and procedures encouraging teamwork.