Stingrays are infamous for their whip-like tails and venomous barbs, but these cartilaginous fish are actually quite gentle unless threatened or in danger. As benthic feeders, most stingrays hunt on the seafloor and use their mouths like a vacuum to suck up prey which their powerful jaws crush up.
In a pristine environment, stingrays would only consume crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, crayfish, barnacles, lobster, and krill. However, about 70% of the plastic that enters the ocean sinks to the ocean floor where it can be consumed by bottom feeders like stingrays. In 2019, a stingray was found with a glass bottle, a pack of cigarettes, a book, and a whole camera in its stomach.
Rays and their shark cousins are at higher risk of extinction than most other animals. However, research on the impacts of plastic pollution has taken a backseat to even greater threats like overfishing and bycatch. But we don’t need more research to know that plastic does not belong in the ocean.