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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009
First film of a 'giant' stingray
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

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Finally caught on film

It is one of the rarest giants of the ocean, and it has been caught on film for the first time.

An underwater camera crew filming for the BBC has recorded a smalleye stingray swimming off the coast of Mozambique.

The smalleye stingray is the largest of all 70 species of stingray, attaining widths of more than 2m.

The elusive creature, first discovered in 1908, has only ever been seen alive off Tofo in southern Mozambique.

Rare sight

Stingrays are cartilaginous fish that are related to sharks.

They occur in marine, freshwater and estuarine habitats and vary in size from the dwarf whipray (Himantura walga), which measures just 24cm wide, to the smooth or short-tail stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata) which can grow over 2m wide.

However, the smalleye stingray (D. microps) is the largest of all, able to grow to a width of 2.2m.

Specimens have been caught in waters around Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and The Philippines, as well as in various places in the Indian Ocean, including with the Ganges River estuary.

But live smalleye stingrays have only been recorded off Tofo, a beach in southern Mozambique that lies 425km north of South Africa and 820km west of the southern tip of Madagascar.

Several live sightings have been made by resident biologists Dr Andrea Marshall and Dr Simon Pierce of the Manta Ray and Whale Shark Research Centre based at Tofo Beach.

Film of a live specimen was recorded by an underwater film crew working for independent production company Big Wave productions, which was making a documentary about manta rays with Dr Marshall.

The footage was shot as part of the programme "Andrea: Queen of the Mantas" for the BBC documentary series Natural World, which will be broadcast on BBC Two at 2000GMT on Wednesday 11 November.



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