Excitement this past long weekend as Chief Supervisor of the Stingray Project at the University of Waikato, Prof. Chris got a bit of a shock whilst on a recreational dive for scallops.
An actual electric shock, as he'd stumbled across a New Zealand Torpedo ray Tetronarce fairchildi also known as the New Zealand Electric ray!
There isn't much known about this apparently common but elusive creature (it is characterised as Data Deficient on the IUCN Redlist classification - compiled by experts in the field). We know that they are found in muddy or sandy sediments, are often taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries and also that they can can give out an electric shock of up to 50 Volts!
A funny-looking ray, unlike the Short tail stingray or the Eagle ray that use their pectoral (side) fins to flap or undulate for movement, the Electric rays use their wide upright tails for propulsion and are thus much slower and sluggish. They wait under the sand for fishes, crabs and similar species and then use their electric superpower to stun their prey before catching and eating it.
This electricity can also be discharged when an off-duty Professor inadvertently disturbs the ray whilst scalloping! Luckily the one disturbed was only small and didn't have the high voltage that some can have but it was still a nasty shock!
So this scallop season keep your eyes open for this guy, and let me know if you see one!