During a snorkel stop on one of our recent tours, Captain Mario was fortunate enough to capture one of the stingrays going under cover ..... below is the sequence and the end result. I think they look like they are dressing up like ghosts for halloween when they do this, and it never fails to raise a chuckle from me - I find myself waiting for them to say Boo!
Stingrays do this for three possible reasons - resting, eating or hiding. At the sandbar, we often see one or two of them buried in the sand, and presume that this means they have had enough handling and want a break from the visitors. We respect this and leave them alone.
Stingrays are opportunistic eaters, meaning that they lie in wait for their next happy meal to come on by. Obviously, their food recognises them, and the stingrays create these sandstorms to cover themselves until the unsuspecting victim happens by. Shrimp, squid and other sand dwelling molluscs form a part of their diet, and the ray's mouth is perfectly situated at the underside of the body in order to suck up these tasty morsels - and quite a suck they have too!
Below is a video that the awesome Michael Maes has on his YouTube channel which shows some of the sandbar stingrays eating Lionfish heads, and it is quite clear how they suck up the food.
The last reason the stingrays may be doing this is to hide from predators. In the North Sound in Grand Cayman, they do not have to deal with a lot of predators, but a Hammerhead shark has been seen recently, and this shark is one of the stingray's worst enemies. The barbs are not removed from our stingrays, so they retain their natural defines system, which is only fair. Hope we host you soon!