Turtle Journal Discovers Stranded Electric Torpedo Ray at Fisher Beach in Truro

 Rufus Guards Stranded Torpedo Ray in Truro

With a southwest breeze blowing across the bay, Turtle Journal’s Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus the Turtle Dog drove out to Truro on Outer Cape Cod to see what might have been pushed ashore with the morning’s 11.5-foot tide.  In the bright sunlight, they patrolled Duck Harbor in Wellfleet and Ryder in South Truro with great joy, but few discoveries. 

Female (Electric) Torpedo Ray at Fisher Beach in Truro

Then, an eighth of a mile north of the landing at Fisher, they encountered a female electric Torpedo Ray that had washed ashore.  Turtle Journal has found torpedo rays stranded along the Cape’s bayside beaches in the fall as we search for cold-stunned sea turtles.  (See Shocking Discovery!  Torpedo Ray in Wellfleet Bay.)  Torpedo rays have anterior organs that can generate and discharge 220 volts to stun a prey … and to keep predators like human researchers at a respectful distance.

Section from Left Electrical Organ of Large Torpedo Ray

The torpedo ray has two kidney-shaped electrical organs that make up 20% of its weight and are located on the pectoral fins. They generate a power equivalent to 220 volts that stuns prey with a burst of electric current. Its prey includes flounder, silver hake fish, small sharks such as dogfish, eels, worms and crustaceans. After stunning its prey, the torpedo ray guides food with its pectoral fins toward its protruding mouth for ingestion.

Rough Field Measurements of Torpedo Ray in Truro

Without a full scientific kit on hand, Sue managed with the tools we wear on our feet for a rough field measurement of specimens.  This female measured approximately four feet long and three feet wide, and seemed in relatively good shape.  Turtle Journal informed the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary of the specimen’s location, so that a follow-up necropsy could document the specimen and possibly determine its cause of death.

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