Natal Electric Ray
Very few specimens of the Natal electric ray have ever been caught, which means that we know almost nothing about the species’ life history and biology. It is considered rare, and lives in the southeast Atlantic and the southwest Indian Ocean.
In South Africa, it has been recorded from Algoa Bay to KwaZulu-Natal. It is thought to inhabit the continental shelf at depths of up to 329 metres – making it very unlikely that one would spot this ray on a recreational dive. The largest specimen on record had a maximum total length of 25 centimetres, although the species may grow bigger. Natal electric rays have an elongated, narrow disc and a small, narrow tail fin. They are plain brown above and white below, and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Also known as the onefin electric ray, the Cape numbfish is endemic to Southern Africa. It has a limited inshore distribution – and in South Africa, is found exclusively from Cape Point to central Natal. It has been recorded in Namibia, and may also occur off Madagascar and
Mozambique. The Cape numbfish favours muddy bays, but can live at depths of up to 180 metres. It feeds mainly on polychaete worms, and may deliver a powerful electric shock if threatened. Reaching a maximum total length of 38 centimetres, this ray has a circular disc and an elongated tail fin. Its dorsal side is yellowish-brown in colour, with yellow patches on the tail; while the underside is brighter yellow. It is listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List, although its limited range is a cause for concern.
Ornate Sleeper Ray
First described in 2007, the ornate sleeper ray is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, and has been recorded at only five locations (including Aliwal Shoal). All records were reported at depths of 50 metres or less. Very little is known about this species,
but it is thought to favour sandy patches in the reef and is active during the day. It feeds on crustaceans and polychaete worms, and can “walk” on its spread pelvic fins. When disturbed, the ornate sleeper ray arches its back and raises its tail in a distinctive threat display. It reaches a maximum total length of 52 centimetres. Its circular body is dark brown in colour, with whitish dashes arranged in concentric circles. Because of its seemingly limited range, it is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Marbled Electric Ray
Also known as the Gulf torpedo ray, the marbled electric ray is thought to be one of the Western Indian Ocean’s most widely distributed electric ray species. It is found off the coasts of Southern Africa, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf
and India – although some experts believe that each of these populations may in fact represent a separate, endemic species. As a result of this uncertainty, the marbled electric ray is listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List. It favours shallow waters but has been recorded at depths of up to 200 metres. It reaches a maximum total length of 130 centimetres, and its circular disc is patterned with cream or gold circles on a dark red or brown background. The marbled electric ray feeds on bony fish and produces litters of 9 to 22 live young.