Temporal range: 100.5–0 Ma Late Cretaceous to Recent
The eagle rays are a group of cartilaginous fishes in the family Myliobatidae, consisting mostly of large species living in the open ocean rather than on the sea bottom.
Eagle rays feed on mollusks and crustaceans, crushing their shells with their flattened teeth. Devil and manta rays filter plankton from the water. They are excellent swimmers and are able to breach the water up to several metres above the surface. Compared with other rays, they have long tails, and well-defined rhomboidal bodies. They are ovoviviparous, giving birth to up to six young at a time. They range from 0.48 to 9.1 m (1.6 to 29.9 ft) in length.
Nelson's book Fishes of the World treats cownose rays, mantas, and devil rays as subfamilies in Myliobatidae. However, most authors (including William Toby White) have preferred to leave Rhinopteridae and Mobulidae outside of Myliobatidae. White (2014) retained three genera (Aetobatus, Aetomylaeus and Myliobatis) in Myliobatidae, while a fourth (Pteromylaeus) was synoymized with Aetomylaeus. A 2016 paper placed Aetobatus in its own family, Aetobatidae.
The common eagle ray, M. aquila, is distributed throughout the Eastern Atlantic, including the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. Another important species is the bat eagle ray, M. californica, in the Pacific Ocean. These rays can grow extremely large, up to 1.8 m (6 ft) including the tail. The tail looks like a whip and may be as long as the body. It is armed with a sting. Eagle rays live close to the coast in depths of 1 to 30 m (3 to 98 ft) and in exceptional cases they are found as deep as 300 m (980 ft). The eagle ray is most commonly seen cruising along sandy beaches in very shallow waters, its two wings sometimes breaking the surface and giving the impression of two sharks traveling together.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2015). "Mylobatidae" in FishBase. April 2015 version.
- White, W.T. (2014): A revised generic arrangement for the eagle ray family Myliobatidae, with definitions for the valid genera. Zootaxa, 3860 (2): 149–166.
- White, W. T. & Naylor, G. J. P. (2016). Resurrection of the family Aetobatidae (Myliobatiformes) for the pelagic eagle rays, genus Aetobatus. Zootaxa 4139, 435–438. 10.11646/zootaxa.4139.3.10