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Electric Rays


Torpediniformes, commonly known as electric rays, are a group of cartilaginous fishes found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They are distinguished from other rays by their large, round pectoral fins and their oval-shaped bodies. Electric rays feed on small fish and mollusks, and are often seen in groups foraging for food. They can grow up to 1.5 m in length, and have been known to leap out of the water. They are generally considered harmless to humans, although they can deliver a powerful electric shock if disturbed.

Coffin Ray Clickable
By Sylke Rohrlach - Own work Previously published:, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Giant (Cortez) Electric Ray Clickable
By Tam Warner Minton from DAllas, usa - 16 cp elec ray or torpedo ray, CC BY 2.0,
Japanese Sleeper Ray Clickable
By RYO SATO from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan - シビレエイ, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Common Torpedo Clickable
By Roberto Pillon -, CC BY 3.0,
Leopard Electric Ray Graphic
© Vitalii6447 - Stock.Adobe.Com

Electric Rays are known for their impressive electrical discharge, which can reach nearly 220 volts in some species, and is used for self-defense as well as to stun prey. 

They have a round, disc-like body shape which is thick, flabby, and contains no thorns or dermal denticles. They can grow up to 1.5 m in length, and have been known to leap out of the water.

They can be found nearly worldwide in coastal waters. These rays dwell in shallow waters, but also can be found in depths as low as 3,300ft deep (1,000m.)

They are known to eat invertebrates as well as small fish. They capture their prey by burrowing in the sand, and then stunning their prey in a surprise electrical attack.

They can be sluggish, and slow, but as mentioned above in their diet, they are known to bury themselves in the sand to trap and paralyze their prey. They are among the most electrosensitive animals, meaning they use electricity to attack and defend, as well as have the ability to detect it. It is believed that ancient Greeks used their electrical stunning abilities to numb pain during operations and even childbirth.

There are around 70 species spanning 13 genera and three families (with 4 sub-families:)

  • Family Narcinidae (numbfishes)
    • Subfamily Narcininae
    • Subfamily Narkinae (sleeper rays)
  • Family Hypnidae (coffin rays)
    • Subfamily Hypninae (coffin rays)
  • Family Torpedinidae (torpedo electric rays)
    • Subfamily Torpedininae

Many are deficient in enough data to determine an endangered status, but of the ones that have enough information, they are considered to be vulnerable.