They camouflage and hide in the shallows, possessing a weapon that has been known to cause fatal injuries – it’s no wonder stingrays have a bad reputation.
But a Griffith University researcher is hoping to change that, one of only a handful of people in the country studying the marine creatures known to have delivered nasty stings.
PhD student Ciaran Hyde has spent most of her research career working with sharks but said rays were now the new shark, making their way into the public arena more as evidence emerges they are one of the most threatened species in the world.
While Queensland is home to the majority of the country’s species – 13 of which are in the southeast – little is still known about many of our stingray species compared to the more well-known and tourist-friendly manta rays.
Ms Hyde has designed her own tracking tags, based on a model which has only ever been used once before, to follow stingrays for her research. The acoustic tags pop off when they’re done recording, making them less intrusive and inexpensive.
“Because people don’t know much about them they’re not really considered a high priority species,” she said.
“Because of publicised deaths, there’s that fear that if you go in the water with one you’ll get killed by a stingray.
“When we build canals or extend in to their area we’re taking their home away and they’ll completely abandon their natural habitat because they can’t adapt.
“Estuary stingrays had a massive range along the east coast but now they’ve become an endangered species.”
Ms Hyde is hoping to develop a citizen science project where the public would take photos of stingrays they see and note where they have been seen, to provide more information for her project.
“There’s so much more research on their biology and anatomy and on ecotourism because of manta rays but when it comes to ecology – why they do what they do, where they go, it’s a big unknown,” she said.
While Ms Hyde is yet to have any dangerous encounters with a stingray she has been bitten by a shark.
There are 21 species of stingrays in Queensland and 13 of those are found in Moreton Bay, several of which are found nowhere else in the world.