Cowtail Stingray, Pastinachus ater (Macleay 1883)

Other Names: Banana-tail Ray, Bull Ray, Cowtail Ray, Eatern Cowtail Stingray, Fantail Ray, Feathertail Stingray, Guergunna, Weralli

A Cowtail Stingray, Pastinachus ater, at Magnetic Island, Queensland. Source: Andy Lewis / Lizard Island Field Guide, License: CC by Attribution


A large uniformly dark stingray that has a long anteriorly-flattened tail with a broad black skin flap and a venomous serrated spine. The disc is slightly wider than long with a dense band of blunt denticles over the centre.

Cowtail Stingrays are commonly found inshore and may even venture far upstream in estuaries. Care must be taken as they can easily bend the long tail up over the back and the serrated spine on the tail may cause a very painful wound. 

In Australia, the Cowtail Stingray has previously been referred to as Pastinachus sephen, which does not occur in Australia. Although the specific name has also been spelled as "atrus" in a number of publications, the correct spelling is "ater". 

Video of a Cowtail Stingray on the Gold Coast Seaway in southern Queensland.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Pastinachus ater in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Dec 2020,

Cowtail Stingray, Pastinachus ater (Macleay 1883)

More Info


Widespread in northern Australia from about Shark Bay, Western Australia, to northern New South Wales, with stragglers south to at least Sydney. Elsewhere the species occurs in West Papua (Indonesia), Papua New Guinea, and parts of the Solomon Islands.
Inhabits shallow sandy and silty areas in intertidal lagoons, reef flats, reef faces, bays and estuaries in depths to 60 m. 


Feeds on small bony fishes and a range of benthic invertebrates including crustaceans, molluscs, polychaete worms and sipunculids.


Reproduction is ovoviviparous, and the embryos are sustained by histotroph ("uterine milk") before being born. Females produce two pups per litter, born at about 18 cm across (DW).


Taken regularly in small numbers as bycatch in commercial fisheries, including in demersal tangle nets, bottom trawls, longlines, Danish seine and beach seine fisheries throughout its range. In Australia this species is taken as bycatch in the Australian Northern Prawn Fishery and in the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery. However the introduction of turtle exclusion devices (TEDS) in these fisheries may have greatly reduced bycatch of large stingrays (Brewer et al. 2006).


In Shark Bay, Western Australia, Cowtail stingrays rest for several hours on shallow, sandy flats during high tide. When resting, they often form small groups, especially in turbid waters - arranging themselves in a "rosette" pattern with their tails pointing outward. This is thought to be an anti-predator behaviour, allowing the rays to see approaching predators.


The specific name is derived from the Latin word for 'black' and the correct masculine adjective is ater.

Species Citation

Taeniura atra Macleay 1883, Proc. Linn. Soc. N. S. W. 7(4): 598. Type locality: Port Moresby District, Papua New Guinea.


Bray, D.J. 2017

Cowtail Stingray, Pastinachus ater (Macleay 1883)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. 292 pp. (as Pastinachus sephen)

Brewer, D., Heales, D., Milton, D., Dell, Q., Fry, G., Venables, B. & Jones, P. 2006. The impact of turtle excluder devices and bycatch reduction devices on diverse tropical marine communities in Australia's northern prawn trawl fishery. Fisheries Research 81: 176-188.

Dulvy, N.K., Fowler, S.L., Musick, J.A., Cavanagh, R.D., Kyne, P.M., Harrison, L.R., Carlson, J.K., Davidson, L.N.K., Fordham, S.V., Francis, M.P., Pollock, C.M., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Burgess, G.H., Carpenter, K.E., Compagno, L.J.V., Ebert, D.A., Gibson, C., Heupel, M.R., Livingstone, S.R., Sanciangco, J.C., Stevens, J.D., Valenti, S. & White, W.T. 2014. Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. eLife 3: e00590.

Last, P.R. & L.J.V. Compagno. 1999. Dasyatidae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.)

Last, P.R., Fahmi & G.J.P. Naylor. 2010. Pastinachus stellurostris sp. nov., a new stingray (Elasmobranchii: Myliobatiformes) from Indonesian Borneo. 129-140 pp. In Last, P.R., White, W.T. & Pogonoski, J.J. (eds) Descriptions of new sharks and rays from Borneo. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper no. 32.

Last, P.R., Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M., Naylor, G.J.P. & White, W.T. 2016. Family Dasyatidae pp. 522-618. In: Last, P.R., White, W.T., de Carvalho, M.R., Séret, B., Stehmann, M.F.W. & & Naylor, G.J.P. (eds) Rays of the World. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 800 pp.

Last, P.R., Naylor, G.J.P. & Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M. 2016. A revised classification of the family Dasyatidae (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes) based on new morphological and molecular insights. Zootaxa 4139(3): 345–368. Abstract DOI: Abstract

Morgan, D.L., White, W.T. & Manjaji Matsumoto, B.M. 2016. Pastinachus ater. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T70682232A70708697. Downloaded on 11 March 2017.

O'Shea, O.R., Thums, M., van Keulen, M., Kempster, R.M. & Meekan, M.G. 2013. Dietary partitioning by five sympatric species of stingray (Dasyatidae) on coral reefs. Iournal of  Fish Biology 82: 1805–1820. doi:10.1111/jfb.12104 (as Pastinachus atrusAbstract

Pauly, D., Booth, S., Christensen, V., Cheung, W.W.L., Close, C., Kitchingman, A., Palomares, M.L.D., Watson, R. & Zeller, D. 2005., On the Exploitation of Elasmobranchs, with Emphasis on Cowtail Stingray Pastinachus sephen (Family Dasyatidae). Fisheries Centre Working Paper 2005-07, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada 37pp.

Saunders, T. & Carne, R. 2010. A Survey of Customary Fishing of Sharks and Stingrays Groote Eylandt. Fishery Report No. 105. Darwin : Northern Territory Government, 26 pp.

Semeniuk, C.A.D. & Dill, L.M. 2005. Cost/benefit analysis of group and solitary resting in the cowtail stingray, Pastinachus sephen. Behavioral Ecology 16 (2): 417-426. PDF Open access

Semeniuk, C.A.D. & Dill, L.M. 2006. Anti-Predator Benefits of Mixed-Species Groups of Cowtail Stingrays (Pastinachus sephen) and Whiprays (Himantura uarnak) at Rest. Ethology 112: 33–43. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01108.x Abstract

White, W.T., Last, P.R., Stevens, J.D., Yearsley, G.K., Fahmi & Dharmadi (2006). Economically Important Sharks and Rays of Indonesia. ACIAR Publishing, Canberra, 329 pp. PDF available

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37035011

Behaviour:Inshore to 60 m

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Venomous spine on tail

Habitat:Marine, estuarine, reef associated

Max Size:300 cm TL; disc width 180 cm

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map