Cownose rays have one to two serrated spines on the tail, close to the body, and unlike other ray species, the cownose ray rarely rests on the ocean bottom. The location of the spine and their near constant behavior reduces the risk of humans accidentally stepping on the spine. The spine is covered in a weak venom that results in a sting equivalent to a bee sting.
It is believed that cownose rays can find potential prey beneath the surface of the ocean floor by detecting the prey’s mechano- or electro-receptive field. The cownose ray will then use a combination of sucking and/or venting of water through their mouth and gills and flapping their wings to create depressions in the substrate. Once exposed, the cownose ray uses their dental plate to crack into the shells.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the cownose ray population as Near Threatened due to heavy and overall unregulated fishing pressure on the inshore environments this species frequents. Near threatened populations are those that are considered to be at high-risk of extinction in the near future.