From: darrellvip on 2/20/2009
Like autumn leaves floating in a sunlit pond, this vast expanse of magnificent stingrays animates the bright blue seas of the Gulf of Mexico.
Taken off the coast
of Mexico's Holbox Island by amateur photographer Sandra Critelli, these
breathtaking pictures capture the migration of thousands of rays as they
follow the clockwise current from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula to western
Measuring up to 6ft 6in across, poisonous golden cow-nose rays migrate in groups - or 'fevers' - of up to 10,000 as they glide their way silently towards their summer feeding grounds.
They migrate twice yearly: north in late spring (as pictured here) and south in late autumn.
There are around 70
species of stingray in the world's oceans, but these cow-nose rays (Rhinoptera
bonasus) have distinctive, highdomed heads, giving them a curiously bovine
But despite their placid looks, they are still armed with a poisonous stinger, which can be deadly to humans (even though sharks, their main predators, are more likely to provoke them).
The stinger, a razor-sharp spine that grows from the creature's whip-like tail, can reach almost 15 inches in length and carries a heady dose of venom.
It was a similar stinger
that killed the hugely popular Australian naturalist Steve Irwin in 2006.
Stingrays (which are related to skates and sharks) have never been widely fished for food, mainly because of their rubbery flesh.
But barbecued stingray
and dried fins are common in Singapore and Malaysia, while pickled stingray
remains a traditional favourite in Iceland. 'It was an unforgettable image,'
said photographer Critelli.