The family Dasyatididae, commonly referred to as the Whiptail Stingrays, are medium to large size rays with oval to diamond shaped disc-like bodies. The dorsal and caudal fins are missing, with the broadly expanded pectoral fins forming the distinctive body disc.
Disc width ranges from around 30 cm to more than 2 meters in larger species, with most of the 69 member species found in shallow tropical and subtropical seas around the world.
The upper body surface is usually grey to brown, sometimes patterned, with the lower surface usually whitish. The gills and mouth are found on the underside of the body.
As the name suggests, members of this family have long whip-like tails, with almost all having one or more saw-edged venomous barbs along the tail. The tail is always significantly longer than the body width.
The tail barbs can reach up to 20 cm in length, elevating when threatened, with the venom glands housed in two grooves on the underside. This powerful weapon is used exclusively for self defence.
The pectoral fins are used to stir up worms, crustaceans, and molluscs. Captured prey is overpowered and pinned to the bottom, before being scooped into the mouth and crushed by bands of small teeth lining the jaws.
Depending on their environment, whiptail stingrays are also known to eat jellyfish and bony fishes.
Since they are heavily preyed upon by a number of shark species, most whiptail stingrays spend a great deal of their time partially buried under the sand or mud on the seafloor with just their eyes protruding. This is considered primarily a defensive strategy rather than a stealthy way to surprise prey.
Whiptail stingrays are ovoviviparous; the embryos are retained in eggs within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch, they will hatch inside the mother and will be born alive and independent.