If you’ve been following my posts here or on Facebook or YouTube, you may be aware that I’ve been pretty fortunate in terms of wild encounters with marine life while diving in New York in the last couple of years (Check out links at the end of this article). My latest encounter was a first for me: an Atlantic Torpedo, Torpedo nobiliana. This wide-ranging elasmobranch is normally an oceanic species. Adults are semi pelagic and can be found at depths of up to 800m, although they are most often found between 10 and 150m. In the western Atlantic, T. nobiliana can be found on the open ocean, from Nova Scotia, south to Brazil. Torpedo rays belong to the order Torpediniformes, the electric rays. They can deliver a powerful electric shock of up to 220 volts, which is used in defense and to immobilize their prey.
Atlantic Torpedo Ray just inside Shinnecock inlet, Southampton, NY.
The specimen in this video is about 1.5m in length (close to the maximum size of 1.8m). I spotted it while diving in approximately 6m of water in Shinnecock Bay, just east of the inlet. It’s always a treat to observe a large wild animal in the water, especially an elasmobranch. Two things made this encounter especially thrilling for me though. First, it’s very unusual to find an adult Torpedo ray inside a bay in such shallow water; and second, this was the first time I’ve had a chance to see a live Torpedo on the move. Although I was aware of their relatively large caudal fin, I had no idea of its importance in locomotion. Unlike most other *rays, the Torpedo uses its caudal fin rather than undulations of its pectorals as its primary source of forward thrust.
*“Ray” is a general term we use that may include dorsoventrally-compressed members from any of several orders in subclass Elasmobranchii.
With the diving season just getting underway, I hope to be posting much more here over the next three months. Here are links to some highlights from the last year: