Long Island Dive Log: Atlantic Torpedo

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Eye Candy, Fish, Photography, Science | 1 comment

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.

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:














  • Todd Gardner

    Todd Gardner is a professor of Aquaculture and Marine Biology at Carteret Community College in Morehead City, North Carolina where he oversees a partnership between the college and The Biota Group, a world leader in sustainably cultured marine life. Todd's life and career have been shaped by his passion for ocean life and he has written numerous scientific and popular articles about his research and experiences collecting, keeping, and culturing marine organisms. Todd’s professional background includes work on a National Geographic documentary, commercial aquaculture at C-quest Hatchery in Puerto Rico, and an 11-year term at the Long Island Aquarium where he spent much of his time developing techniques for rearing marine fish larvae. To date he has raised more than 50 species. In 2013 Todd received the prestigious Aquarist of the Year Award from the Marine Aquarium Society of North America (MASNA). In his spare time, Todd dives, photographs marine life, runs marathons, and makes music.

1 Comment

  1. Annette

    I encountered a beached electric ray , very large , had to be 3ft across , on short beach near the coast guard station at the “West End” Jones Beach , Boat Basin that year as well. Did not know it was electric and that I could get a shock!
    I touched its head area and it felt like I was punched hard all the way to my shoulder from my hand . Tried to get it back in the water after and succeeded with out touching its head area again.
    Used a towel to gently pull by tail area back in water . It swam around and around , but never went out far.
    Next day either it was the same one or another on shore again still alive . Tried to alert the nature center near by . Not sure what ever happened .
    Have been going to that beach for 30 yrs . Never encountered one before .


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Upcoming Events