The giant freshwater stingray (Himantura polylepis) is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, growing up to 16.5 feet long and weighing up to 1,320 pounds. They are brown to gray in color, wide and flat in form, and they sport a long, whip-like tail.
Giant stingrays occur in river systems in Thailand, Borneo, New Guinea, and northern Australia. They often bury themselves in sandy or silted river bottoms and breathe through holes or spiracles, located on top of their bodies. Stingrays locate prey, usually clams and crabs, with a sensor that can detect an animal's electrical field.
In Southeast Asia, giant stingray numbers appear to have dropped dramatically in recent years as their riverine habitats have degraded, and it appears they no longer inhabit some parts of their historical range. Though stingrays do not readily attack humans, they are one of the few “monster fish” that can pose a real danger to those who handle them. Each ray sports a deadly barb on the base of its tail that can easily penetrate human skin and even bone, much like a hunting arrow. This stinger can be as long as 15 inches and typically introduces toxins to the victim’s wound.
Photo: Courtesy of Zeb Hogan