Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Synopsis The number of venomous caudal spines and their length and position relative to one another were determined in seven species of South American freshwater rays (Potamotrygonidae) and eight marine or euryhaline species of four families from the Caribbean Coast of South and Central America. Most species have two visible spines at certain stages in the shedding-replacement cycle and only one visible spine at other stages (following shedding). If we include the embryological beginnings of the spines before they erupt and become visible, the spine counts of most rays are actually 2 rather than 1 or 2. Since most species apparently follow this pattern, spine counts are of little use in distinguishing between species except in the relatively few that may have only one, or no spines. Eight captive Potamotrygon specimens maintained in simulated tropical temperature conditions over 12 months showed periodic shedding and replacement of spines. The molts were biannual for a given ray but annual for a given spine. They alternated between two spine loci and their cycles were approximately six months out of phase with each other. Recent studies on Dasyatis sabina by others report only one molt per year, with replacement spines forming always posterior to the primary spine rather than alternating between posterior and anterior. Supernumerary spines (counts of more than two, up to five) are also discussed, as are counts of one and zero.
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