(Photo by Mark Laita)
The Leopard Whipray (Himantura undulata). This ray’s entire upper surface, including half of the tail, is covered in a pattern of circular brown to black rings just like a leopard. When undamaged, the tail is three times as long as the body and tapers to a fine point, like a whip, giving an elegant bearing to this beautiful ray. The young are born at 20 cm wide and grow to at least 140 cm across their wings. Leopard Whiprays are found in tropical waters from Shark Bay in Western Australia to at least the Queensland/New South Wales border; here they inhabit sandy seabeds in the open or near reefs and they feed on crabs, shrimp and shelled invertebrates. When resting they will cover themselves in sand for extra camouflage. Like most rays, they are considered to be harmless but their large size and serrated spine deserves respect.