A Stingray Sting: Is It Deadly?

If you are bitten by a stingray, avoid applying any home treatment to the wound, as this could lead to secondary infections. Go immediately to the doctor for the corresponding revisions.
A Stingray Sting: Is It Deadly?
Cesar Paul Gonzalez Gonzalez

Written and verified by the biologist Cesar Paul Gonzalez Gonzalez.

Last update: 15 March, 2023

Stingrays and manta rays belong to the cartilaginous fish group. They’re characterized by a flattened, diamond-shaped body that helps them “glide” through the water. Despite their unthreatening appearance, some species have a venomous sting that is capable of causing intense pain to victims. But is a stingray sting deadly?

Stingray or manta ray sting incidents happen close to the shore. Certain species tend to rest on the sandy seabed, so bathers can easily step on them and get stung. Read on to find out if the injuries caused by these animals are lethal.

Are manta rays and stingrays the same thing?

It’s common to hear the terms manta ray and stingray used synonymously. This isn’t entirely incorrect, as both refer to the amazing species of the order Rajiformes. However, from a taxonomic perspective, there are definite differences that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The word ray can identify any species within the Rajiformes group, while the term manta ray only refers to species of the genus Mobula also included in the taxon. Among their most obvious differences are the following:

  • Appearance: Manta rays are characterized by more elongated lateral fins (as if they were wings), while in rays their body looks like a homogeneous, diamond-shaped blanket.
  • Size: Mobula species reach a body length of between 5 and 7 meters (16 to 23 feet). On the other hand, most Rajiformes don’t exceed 2 meters (6.5 feet)in length.
  • Diet: Manta rays have a toothless mouth specialized in eating krill, plankton and some fish eggs through filtration. However, stingrays exhibit flattened dentitions and feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and certain fish.
  • Sting: Stingrays don’t have a venomous sting, so they use their strong swimming ability as a defense mechanism. Stingrays can be a problem in this area, as we will see below.
  • Swimming habit: Stingrays are characterized by swimming on the ocean floor (they are benthic animals) and hiding among the substrate, while manta rays tend to dive close to the surface to obtain their food.
Is a stingray sting dangerous?

Do manta rays sting?

As you may realize, manta rays don’t have the ability to sting. These animals don’t have a sting or venom, and it’s impossible for them to cause any kind of injury. In fact, they are quite shy and flee at any sign of danger.

Do stingrays sting?

Stingrays are capable of stinging and seriously injuring people. This isn’t only because of the venom they inject, but also because some use their long tails as a whip. Although it may not seem threatening, the force of the strike means that it can penetrate deep into the victim’s skin.

Is the stingray sting deadly?

The stingray sting isn’t  usually fatal. However, it’s quite painful and may bleed profusely depending on the area of injury. Symptoms of the venom aren’t serious, but the patient will require medical attention in all cases (with no exceptions).

Stingray stings have an overall frequency of between 750 and 2000 cases per year, which depends on the area and abundance of these species. The most frequent symptoms are faintness, muscle weakness, nausea, and anxiety, although they vary somewhat from person to person.

The mortality rate from stingray stings is extremely low. As painful as it may be, the venom isn’t considered lethal in humans.

What to do if you’re stung by a stingray?

In the event of any stingray sting, the correct first aid procedure is to wash the wound with a little salt water. This will help make the severity of the injury visible and any remaining fragments of the animal’s stingray will be removed. Bleeding is likely to be quite heavy, so pressure should be applied to the area to reduce it.

The stingray barb may remain stuck in the skin and cause the injury to become infected. However, it isn’t advisable to remove it without consulting a doctor, as there’s a risk that it may have damaged a blood vessel. It doesn’t matter whether the sting causes a small or large wound; either way, the patient will need immediate medical attention.

Do I need to worry about the sting?

Most cases are solved with simple cures and treatment. Of course, this is assuming that the sting hasn’t caused severe damage and proper medical attention has been received. Some affected people may even need surgery to heal the wound damage, but it all depends on the situation.

Remember that lesions can become infected and complicate the prognosis for recovery. That’s why it’s so important to have a doctor’s follow-up, as only health professionals are able to evaluate the evolution of the injury. Although a person’s life won’t normally be at risk due to a stingray sting, you can be sure that it won’t be a pleasant experience.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.