Whitespotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus ocellatus (Kuhl 1823)

Other Names: Beaked Eagle Ray, Bonnet Skate, Duckbill Eagle-ray, Duckbill Ray, Eagle Ray, Flying Ray, Ocellated Eagle Ray, Spotted Eagle Ray, Spotted Eagle-ray, White-spotted Eagle Ray

A Whitespotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus ocellatus, off North Direction Island, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Anne Hoggett / Lizard Island Research Station. License: CC BY Attribution

A large dark dark greenish-grey (to almost blackish, sometimes pinkish) eagle ray with white spots and rings (rarely ocellated spots), and a white underside. The species has a broad flattened diamond-shaped disc, five gill slits on the underside, a flattened snout, and a long tail armed with venomous spines.

In Australia, this species was previously known as Aetobatus narinari, a species found in the Atlantic Ocean. 
Whitespotted Eagle Rays on the Gold Coast Seaway.
A Whitespotted Eagle Ray trying to dislodge at remora at Heron Island, Queensland.
A Whitespotted Eagle Ray being cleaned by a Common Cleanerfish.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2024, Aetobatus ocellatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/2034

Whitespotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus ocellatus (Kuhl 1823)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from Shark Bay, Western Australia, around the tropical north to about Sydney, New South Wales. Elsewhere, the species is widespread across the Indo-west-central Pacific.
Inhabits coastal and open ocean waters, often around coral reefs, although they occasionally enter estuaries and lagoons. The species is either solitary or may occur in large schools of hundreds of individuals.


Tail relatively long with mean total length 281% DW, mean anterior cloaca to tail tip 230.2% DW; stinging spines relatively long with mean length of first spine 9.7% DW; teeth plates in a single row, those in the lower jaw chevron-shaped; pectoral fin radials about 102-116, excluding proterygial radials anterior of eyes; 99-101 total vertebral centra, including synarcua.



Dorsal surfaces with a dark greenish-grey base coloration, variably white spotted, rarely ocellated.


Feeds mostly on hard-shelled prey such as gastropod and bivalve molluscs, and crabs, although also consumes polychaete worms, octopuses and small bony fishes. Often seen digging for prey items buried in the sand.


The Ocellated Eagle Ray is aplacental viviparous (ovoviparous), with embryos feeding initially on yolk, then receiving additional nourishment by the indirect absorption of uterine fluid produced by the mother. This fluid is enriched with mucus, fat or protein through specialised structures. The species has low fecundity, with females producing 1-4 pups per litter following a long gestation period of 12 months. Individuals do not mature until five years of age, and females are thought to produce litters every 2-3 years.


Although eagle rays are taken incidentally in trawl and gillnet fisheries in Australia, the mandatory use of turtle exclusion devises may reduce bycatch. In addition, these fisheries mostly prohibit the retention of sharks and rays.



Similar Species

Recent molecular studies showed that Aetobatus ocellatus was distinct from Aetobatus narinari (see White et al. 2010; Schluessel et al. 2010; Richards et al. 2009). A. ocellatus differs from A. narinari in having a slightly longer tail, different background dorsal coloration and a slightly longer spine.


Species Citation

Myliobatus ocellatus Kuhl, in van Hasselt 1823, Algemein Konst- en Letter-bode I Deel 20: 316. Type locality: Muara Angke fish landing site, Jakarta, Indonesia (neotype); original type locality Java.


Bray, D.J. 2024


Atlas of Living Australia

Whitespotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus ocellatus (Kuhl 1823)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls (p. 48, as Aetobatus narinari)

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C.& Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2, 284 pp. (p. 35, as Aetobatus narinari)

Berthe, C., Mourier, J., Lecchini, D., Rummer, J.L., Sellos, D.Y. & Iglésias, S.P.  2016. DNA barcoding supports the presence of the cryptic ocellated eagle ray, Aetobatus ocellatus (Myliobatidae), in French Polynesia, South Pacific. Cybium 40(2):181-184.

Compagno, L.J.V. & Last, P.R. 1999. Families Gymnuridae, Myliobatidae, Rhinopteridae, Mobulidae. pp. 1505-1529 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 1397-2068 pp. (p. 1516, as Aetobatus narinari)

Dulvy, N.K. & Reynolds, J.D. 1997. Evolutionary transitions among egg-laying, live-bearing and maternal inputs in sharks and rays. Proc. R. Soc. Lond., Ser. B: Biol. Sci. 264: 1309-1315.

Harry, A.V., Tobin, A.J., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Welch, D.J., Mapleston, A., White, J., Williams, A.J. & Stapley, J. 2011. Evaluating catch and mitigating risk in a multispecies, tropical, inshore shark fishery within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Marine and Freshwater Research 62: 710-721.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Kyne, P.M., Dudgeon, C.L., Ishihara, H., Dudley, S.F.J. & White, W.T. 2016. Aetobatus ocellatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T42566169A42566212. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T42566169A42566212.en. Downloaded on 31 March 2017.

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls (p. 448, as Aetobatus narinari)

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp. (p. 467, as Aetobatus narinari)

McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5: 1–144 (p. 30, as Aetobatus narinari)

Miklucho-Maclay, N.N. & Macleay, W. 1886. Plagiostomata of the Pacific. Part III. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 10(4): 673-678 (described as Myliobatis punctatus; type locality Admiralty and Lub, or Hermit Islands).

Pepperell, J. 2010. Fishes of the Open Ocean a Natural History & Illustrated Guide. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press Ltd 266 pp. (p. 222, as Aetobatus narinari, in part)

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs (p. 31, as Aetobatus narinari)

Richards, V.P., Henning, M., Witzell, W. & Shivji, M.S. 2009. Species delineation and evolutionary history of the globally distributed spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari). Journal of Heredity 100: 273-283 (as Aetobatus narinari, suggested 2-3 species included under this name)

Schluessel, V., Bennett, M.B. & Collin, S.P. 2010. Diet and reproduction in the white-spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari from Queensland, Australia and the Penghu Islands, Taiwan. Marine and Freshwater Research 61 11: 1278-1289.

Schluessel, V., Broderic, D., Colin, S.P. & Ovenden, J.R. 2010. Evidence for extensive population structure in the white-spotted eagle ray within the Indo-Pacific inferred from mitochondrial gene sequences. Journal of Zoology 281: 46–55

Schluessel, V., Bennett, M.B., Collin, S.P. 2010. Diet and reproduction in the white-spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari from Queensland, Australia and the Penghu Islands, Taiwan. Marine and Freshwater Research 61: 1278–1289.

Stobutzki, I.C., Miller, M.J., Heales, D.S., & Brewer, D.T. 2002. Sustainability of elasmobranchs caught as bycatch in a tropical prawn (shrimp) fishery. Fisheries Bulletin 100: 800-821.

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., Last, P.R., Naylor, G.J.P., Jensen, K. & Caira, J.N. 2010. Clarification of Aetobatis ocellatus (Kuhl, 1823) as a valid species, and a comparison with Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasen, 1790) (Rajiformes: Myliobatidae). 141-164 in Last, P.R., White, W.T. & Pogonoski, J.J. Descriptions of new sharks and rays from Borneo. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper 32: 1–165.

White, W.T. & Last, P.R. 2016. Families Myliobatidae, Aetobatidae pp. 706-731. 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.

Whitley, G.P. 1940. The Fishes of Australia. Part 1. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Roy. Zool. Soc. N.S.W. 280 pp. 303 figs (p. 224, as Aetobatus punctatus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37039003

Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:0-60 m

Habitat:Reef associated, semipelagic

Max Size:153 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map