Torpedo Ray (Torpedo nobiliana) in Sandwich, Cape Cod
The string of rarities continues unabated on Cape Cod. The Turtle Journal team saw its first torpedo ray two days ago in Wellfleet Bay. We heard from Bob Prescott, director of Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, that it was “the second one so far this fall.” Okay, two unusual sightings could be a coincidence. Today, though, we received a call from the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay where Don serves on the board of trustees. A resident of East Sandwich asked for the center’s help in identifying a fish that had washed up on his beach. “The animal looks like a skate, but it has a fish tail, not a spike. It’s big and heavy, maybe 50 pounds.” We asked him about the color. “Sort of brownish,” he replied. We suggested that he click on Turtle Journal to see the current posting on the torpedo ray. He called us back within a few minutes. “I’ve got a torpedo ray. Not as big as that one, but it’s a torpedo ray!” We promised to check out his ray to confirm the identification, to take documentary photographs and to collect scientific data as soon as we completed our necropsy on the Wellfleet creature.
Google Locations of Two Female Torpedo Rays
Thanks to the return of Eastern Standard Time, the sun was already setting as we reached the Sandwich beach. The resident had obligingly lugged the animal above the high water mark after our phone conversation, so that it would not disappear with the tide. He, his children, several neighbors and visitors came down to the beach to observe the analysis. The fish was indeed a torpedo ray about a foot and a half shorter, a foot slimmer and half as massive as its Wellfleet cousin. This ray was a bit riper, too, desiccated from a longer period of exposure to the elements.
Female Torpedo Ray in Evening Surf at Sandwich Beach
We identified the animal as female, the same as the Wellfleet ray, and again we detected no obvious external sign of injury that would reveal her cause of death. Don employed the “stress on the back” methodology for weight assessment when he flipped the creature over to examine its ventral (bottom) surface. We estimate her weight a little north of 50 pounds … about half as massive as the Wellfleet ray, but we didn’t compensate for loss of mass due to desiccation.
Don Lewis Measures Width of Torpedo Ray
The curved length of the fish measured from snout to trailing edge of caudal fin was three feet eleven inches. Its width along the dorsal (top) side of the pectoral fins was two feet five inches.
Don Lewis Measures Length of Torpedo Ray’s Caudal Fin
We measured the length of the caudal fin as eighteen inches and its height as seven and a half inches. The width across the pelvic fins registered fifteen inches.
Fun fact: The word “torpedo” actually comes from the Latin derived Torpediniformes for the order of electric rays, which in turn comes from the Latin “torpere” (to stun), according to Wikipedia. So, the weapon (torpedo) got its name from the torpedo ray and not vice versa.