The DWA exhibits an unusually extensive series of freshwater and saltwater stingrays. This inhabitant of coral reefs from the Red Sea to the Indo-Pacific is one of the most colorful of all elasmobranchs (sharks, rays, and chimeras). It is a small stingray, never more than three feet long, including its tail. It hunts crustaceans and other invertebrates.
The Spotted eagle ray is named for the spots on the dorsal side of its body, and for the way that it appears to “fly” underwater. It is also known as a Duckbill ray because of the unique shape of its nose which is used to locate its prey in sandy sediments. Spotted eagle rays can be found in large schools in bays or coral reefs, but spend a great deal of time in open water. When being pursued by a potential predator, it can be seen leaping from the water. The Spotted eagle ray possesses a venomous spine at the base of its tail and can inflict a serious wound. It is protected by law in the State of Florida, but is not considered an important commercial fisheries species.
The Bonnethead shark is the smallest member of the Hammerhead family, reaching only about four feet in total length. It is found in tropical waters of the Atlantic coast from New England, through the Gulf of Mexico and well into South America. It is also found from the Baja peninsula through the west coast of Mexico and Central America. Bonnethead sharks usually occur in small schools of up to 15 individuals. When migrating, they can be found in schools of hundreds or thousands. Scientists believe that the Bonnethead shark contains a specialized type of cerebrospinal fluid that helps Bonnetheads communicate chemically when another Bonnethead is nearby. They are considered harmless to humans.
The Freshwater sawfish, or Largetooth sawfish, is a unique cartilaginous fish that is a member of the order Rajiformes which includes stingrays and guitarfishes. It is named for the long rostrum that bears “teeth” on either side. The sawfish uses this rostrum to swipe at and stun schooling fish and other prey items such as benthic invertebrates. The Freshwater sawfish is found in shallow estuarine waters in Africa, Asia and Australia and can live in both fresh and saltwater. It closely resembles the small tooth sawfish Pristis pectinata which is found off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Brown shark, also known as the Sandbar shark is commonly found in public aquariums. The genus name Carcharhinus is derived from Greek words meaning “sharpen nose”. It is a coastal-pelagic shark that lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. It is naturally a bottom-dwelling shark found in shallow coastal waters, and is known to be highly migratory. The Brown shark is an important species in commercial fisheries along the Eastern United States, and is the primary targeted species in this area. Because of its age at reproduction and the fact that it reproduces every other year producing a small number of young, the Brown shark is vulnerable to over-exploitation. Although rarely associated with attacks on humans, the size of the Brown shark makes it a potential threat.
While many of the 20 or so species of South American river stingrays have restricted ranges, this species is found in practically every river basin in South America. It is a popular species in aquariums because of its large orange spots. It can reach a diameter of two feet.
This species has a restricted range in South America, found only in the Xingu River Basin of Brazil, creating a concern that mining or other polluting activities could threaten it. Because of its striking pattern, it is highly valued for aquarium displays, and is now being captive bred around the world.