A Review of the Taxonomy, Biology and Conservation Status of the Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus sp., Species Complex

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Second Advisor

Donald McCorquodale


Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus spp.) have been documented circumglobally as early as 1614. Until recently, eagle rays of the genus Aetobatus were considered to comprise only two species, Aetobatus narinari (spotted eagle ray) and A. flagellum (longheaded eagle ray). Recently, however, studies utilizing genetic and morphological analyses have revealed that the globally distributed A. narinari comprises a species complex with distinct evolutionary lineages, resulting in the recognition of at least four, regionally circumscribed species: Aetobatus narinari, Aetobatus ocellatus, Aetobatus flagellum, and Aetobatus narutobei. All taxa are regionally exploited in fisheries and a focus of conservation concern. Overall, the “A. narinari” complex remains poorly studied, and there is no synthetic overview of the biology, taxonomy and conservation status of genus. This Capstone paper compiles available information about: historic and current taxonomy, diet, social behavior, mating behavior, and economic importance, providing a broad overview of this species complex while highlighting the need for further research into each newly delineated species.

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