Viewers entranced by video capturing rare sighting of 100 cownose rays

Breathtakingly rare video shows 100 cownose rays swimming along the Great Barrier Reef

  • Marine biologist from Great Barrier Reef shares stunning video of cownose rays
  • The mesmerising footage captured a rare sighting of the mysterious species
  • Cownose rays are native to the western Atlantic ocean but travel large distances
  • Biologist Jessica Shackleton said she was ‘completely blown away’ by the rays

A breathtaking video of 100 cownose rays travelling through the Great Barrier Reef has left hundreds of viewers mesmerised. 

Marine biologist Jessica Shackleton captured the video during a routine snorkel just off Lady Elliot Island, located on the southern tip of the World Heritage site.

Despite having conducted research on the reef for three years, Ms Shackleton said it was the first time she had seen a cownose ray. 

Sightings of the species is rare in the Coral Sea, just off the coast of Queensland, as the cownose ray is native to the western Atlantic ocean. 

A marine biologist’s spectacular footage of around 100 cownose rays swimming through the Great Barrier Reef has mesmerised viewers

Ms Shackleton posted the stunning video of the rays to her Instagram page.  

‘Yesterday afternoon I had one of the most spectacular encounters of my life as I turned and saw this huge fever of cownose rays approaching me,’ she wrote. 

‘This is my first ever sighting of a cownose ray during my time on the Southern Great Barrier Reef and I was absolutely blown away.’

The marine biologist told Nine News it was one of her ‘magic moments’ on the reef where she was completely absorbed in the moment.  

‘It looked like they were dancing in sync across the reef,’ she said, judging there had been around 80 to 110 rays in the large school. 

Many viewerd on Instagram thanked Ms Shackleton for sharing the stunning footage in the comments, with fellow diver’s congratulating the biologist on her find.  

‘Actually can’t believe it! So amazing! So stoked for you’, one wrote. 

Another commented that capturing the moment would have been ‘amazing’. 

Cownose rays are rarely sighted in the Great Barrier Reef (pictured), but are known to travel long distances from the Atlantic ocean

‘I didn’t even know where to look or what to do’, Ms Shackleton replied to the user. 

Many viewers shared they felt mesmerised by the graceful movements of the rays.  

‘Watching this on repeat, so soothing,’ another commented.   

The stingray is named for the unique shape of its head, which when viewed from above looks like a cows head. 

Their migration patterns and reasons for travelling such long distances to Australia are not completely understood. 

Marine researchers hope to learn more about the cownose ray through their guest appearances in Australian waters. 


The cownose ray is a moderately sized stingray native to the Atlantic ocean

They are active swimmers, rarely found lying motionless on the seafloor

The ray is known to form large schools and migrate long distances

They are foraging predators, feasting on claims, snails, oysters and crabs

Adult rays can grow to three feet wide, and have few natural predators 

They have poisonous stingers, but are shy and rarely swim at the surface

The rays are a popular choice to be exhibited in ‘touch tanks’ in aquariums  

Source: Oceana 

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