Fun Giant Freshwater Stingray Facts For Kids

Iram Ashfaq
Feb 21, 2024 By Iram Ashfaq
Originally Published on Aug 17, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Discover these refreshing giant freshwater stingray facts.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.6 Min

Giant freshwater stingrays are the largest species of ray in Thailand and other parts of Asia. Living up to 25 years old is not uncommon for these majestic creatures. They always keep their tail facing away from predators when resting on sand bottoms or in shallow water. This helps prevent them from being spotted by larger animals that might be lurking nearby hoping for an easy meal. Their long rostrum or snout has one nostril which filters out microscopic planktonic food items collected while swimming just beneath the surface film. Other rays feed off small crustaceans found among living coral reefs and in offshore waters. Even though they are big animals with a potential for danger if touched by humans due to their sharp barb on their tail, sometimes called the sting, these creatures are not dangerous unless provoked or stepped on. We do not recommend this!

One way we can be prepared is by learning about these majestic creatures of the sea. These giants are not aggressive to humans, but they will defend themselves if provoked by a human. They need all that space on their backs because these animals feed off small shrimp-like creatures called zooplankton. Due to their massive size, they are also popularly referred to as giant freshwater stingray river monsters. Tales of the giant freshwater stingray (Himantura chaophraya) are fraught with mystery and intrigue. Few have seen it, but those who do often tell stories about how this creature is absolutely enormous and can cover itself in a layer of mud to avoid detection by predators such as sharks. The giant freshwater stingray anatomy can truly astonish you. Continue reading for some facts about the giant freshwater stingray.

For more relatable content, check out these stingray facts and ray facts for kids.

Giant Freshwater Stingray Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a giant freshwater stingray?

Giant freshwater stingrays are the largest freshwater fishes and are famous for their giant freshwater stingray barb on the tail spine.

What class of animal does a giant freshwater stingray belong to?

Giant freshwater stingrays belong to the class Chondrichthyes and are most commonly found in rivers in Asia especially in Thailand.

How many giant freshwater stingrays are there in the world?

Scientists were surprised to find that there are no more than 1,000 whip-like giant freshwater stingrays  in the world, scattered across the rivers of Thailand and other parts of Asia.

Where does a giant freshwater stingray live?

This endangered freshwater fish, the giant stingray (Himantura chaophraya, can be found living anywhere from deep within the depths of murky rivers to floating leisurely on its surface, mostly near Thailand.

What is a giant freshwater stingray's habitat?

This wild giant stingray fish species (Himantura chaophraya) is found in its habitat in the Mekong River, Thailand, and many other parts of the world. The habitat of this fish also depends on the food resources in the area. They are mostly found near freshwater rivers, hence the name giant freshwater whipray or stingray fish species.

Who do giant freshwater stingrays live with?

These powerful and majestic whip-like animal species of Thailand can be found living peacefully by themselves or bumping shoulders with new friends like turtles and seagulls.

How long does a giant freshwater stingray live?

The wild endangered giant freshwater rays species live for about 25 years. They are the largest freshwater species, hence the name giant freshwater whipray or stingrays species (Himantura)!

How do they reproduce?

Their primary mode of reproduction occurs when the male and female swim to each other as they form groups in the mating season. They are vivaparous, meaning the babies develop inside the female fish. Males will wave their fins at females as an invitation to mate with them. Female giant freshwater stingrays give birth to live young which already measure around 11 in (30 cm) and they continue to grow until they reach 14 ft (4.2 m).

What is their conservation status?

Their conservation status is Endangered. The wild freshwater stingray with the scientific name Urogymnus polylepis is one of the most beautiful and unique creatures in all of nature. Unfortunately, it has been labeled as being Endangered thanks to pollution caused by humans that has destroyed their habitats.

Giant Freshwater Stingray Fun Facts

What do giant freshwater stingray look like?

This wild ray species has a large, flat disc-shaped body with barb-like structures on the spine tail on body length. This fish also has two sets of wing-like fins that are used for swimming and catching prey after its birth. The body is gray-white in color and covered in scales. These gentle wild giants can often be found happily swimming along river banks where there is plenty of vegetation shielding them from their food predators. Their predators, like catfish, lurk just below the surface and deep within murky waters and are able to gobble their food down whole if given half a chance.

This animal has two different types of teeth. One type is designed for catching prey in its mouth and crushing it between their razor-sharp jaws, while the other set is used as a cutting tool so they can cut off chunks of meat once it has caught something tasty inside its jawless mouth.

Giant freshwater stingrays are largest freshwater fishes

How cute are they?

Never judge a book by its cover. These massive freshwater rays might not be the cutest, but they are definitely one of the most interesting and intimidating fish in the Mekong River.

How do they communicate?

Giant freshwater rays communicate with one another through a series of high-pitched clicks, whirs, and buzzes. Scientists found that the sounds are created by the stingray's 'wing' soon after birth which waves back and forth as it swims along in the river creating an unseen current to heighten its sensory abilities. The sound of this fish is then amplified when sand particles vibrate off their wing-like chimes. They also use this method to create vibrations to help them locate food sources from miles away.

How big is a giant freshwater stingray?

In this world, there are many strange and unusual creatures. Some of these animals have been around for centuries while some were just recently discovered by scientists. One such creature is the giant freshwater stingray with a weight of up to 1100-1300 lb (500-600 kg) and a width of 6 ft (2 m). Their length is around 14 ft (5 m).

How fast can a giant freshwater stingray swim?

These creatures with the scientific name Urogymnus polylepis are like underwater sharks of the freshwater variety. They use their sharp, pointed tails to help them move swiftly through the water and capture prey. They can travel at a speed of up to 20 mph (32 kph). Stingrays occupy both salt and fresh water but prefer shallow waters with plenty of vegetation around for camouflage or protection from predators such as humans.

How much does a giant freshwater stingray weigh?

The weight range is 1100-1300 lb (500-600 kg). The giant size and massive weight make this species difficult for humans to observe in their natural habitat or for fishing purposes, especially around the range of the Mekong River.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no gender-specific terms for female and male rays of this species. Both genders go by the name giant stingrays. The giant freshwater stingray has a female and male species that look nearly identical. While females are generally longer, males and females both have long tails with broad tips to wrap around prey in their mouths. Like other stingrays, they also share diamond-shaped bodies covered in armor-like scales from head to tail for protection against predators like sharks.

What would you call a baby giant freshwater stingray?

These rays give birth to live young pups after reproduction. These little babies popularly go by the name pups. This species does not lay eggs but gives birth straight to live young creatures.

What do they eat?

The giant freshwater stingray is a fearsome predator which has been reported to eat crabs, shrimps, octopuses, and small fish by scientists. The stingray also eats zooplankton that is mashed up in its mouth before being swallowed whole.

Are they dangerous?

These stingrays are not dangerous, but their weight can make them passively dangerous for fishermen fishing off river shores. They will often glide just below the surface of the water and lie still once they feel a fisherman's line or net in hopes that it is food floating by instead.

Would they make a good pet?

Giant stingrays serve no purpose being kept in home aquariums, mainly because they are too big for pet life. You can go and see one in an aquarium where space is not limited!

Did you know...

Giant freshwater stingrays sometimes use their stings as defensive mechanisms against predators and other enemies who dare swim near them. These poisonous barbs inflict such severe pain on their victims that it os advised you do not touch these elegant creatures if given the chance.

The giant freshwater ribbon ray has adapted to live in warm climates and feed on smaller fish that float by or near the surface level.

How does a giant freshwater stingray die?

When they can no longer breathe at the surface of the water or are injured in some way and cannot move very well anymore, these animals will just sink to their death. It is unclear what causes this behavior other than potential fatigue from swimming for so long without rest.

What is the world's largest stingray?

The smalleye stingray is the world's largest species of ray and has been known to inflict serious injuries with its barb.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our amberjack facts and guppy facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable giant freshwater stingray coloring pages.

Giant Freshwater Stingray Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Crabs, shrimps, octopuses, small fish, and zooplankton

What Type of Animal were they?

Omnivore

Average Litter Size?

1-6

How Much Did They Weigh?

1100-1300 lb (500-600 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

river systems and a local major river

Where Do They Live?

northern australia, southeast thailand, the mekong river, and southeast asia

How Long Were They?

Width: 6 ft (2 m)Length: 14 ft (4.2 m)‍

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Chondrichthyes

Genus

Urogymnus

Family

Dasyatidae

Scientific Name

Urogymnus polylepis

What Do They Look Like?

Gray white

Skin Type

Scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

sharks

What is their Conservation Status?

Endangered
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Written by Iram Ashfaq

Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Master of Public Health

Iram Ashfaq picture

Iram AshfaqBachelor of Dental Surgery, Master of Public Health

With a Bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from Shaney Institute of Health Sciences and a Master's degree in Public Health from Imperial College London, Iram is a highly qualified and accomplished writer from Srinagar, India. Over the course of a year, she has acquired multiple writing certifications, focusing on health sciences and research studies. Prior to joining Kidadl, Iram gained valuable experience working as a content writer for Indian firms and interning at a New York-based company. Her expertise and passion for writing shine through in her ability to create compelling content across a variety of topics.

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