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Revista de biología marina y oceanografía

versión On-line ISSN 0718-1957

Rev. biol. mar. oceanogr. vol.50 no.1 Valparaíso abr. 2015 



First record of total albinism in southern stingray Dasyatis americana

Primer reporte de albinismo total en la raya Dasyatis americana


Armando T. Wakida-Kusunoki1

1Centro Regional de Investigación Pesquera de Yucalpeten, Instituto Nacional de Pesca, Carretera a Chelem, Blvd del pescador s/n Puerto de abrigo, C.P. 97320, Yucalpetén, Yucatán, México.


This paper describes the first record of total albinism in the southern stingray Dasyatis americana. The disc width of the albino sub adult female specimen was 640 mm and the total weight was 9,850 g. It was captured in the coast of Tabasco, southeastern Mexico.

Key words: Albinism, Dasyatis americana, elasmobranchs, Tabasco, southeast Mexico


Albinism is a genetically inherited condition in which the pigment protein melanin is either absent or nonfunctional (Reum 2008). Individuals with total albinism exhibit total absence of melanin involving the entire body; on the other hand, partial albinism (or leucism) is phenotypically characterized by absence of melanin in part of the body or reduction of melanin in the entire body or a part of it (Lutz 2001). Albinism appears to be more common in bony fishes than in elasmobranchs, in which it has been reported in at least 26 shark and 15 ray species (Table 1).


Table 1. Albinism reports in elasmobranchs. (1): in Clark (2002); (2): in Ishihara et al. (2001); (3): in Sandoval-Castillo (2006);
(4): in Ben-Souissi (2007); (5): in Escobar-Sanchez et al. (2014)
Tabla 1. Reportes de albinismo en elasmobranquios. (1): en Clark (2002); (2): en Ishihara et al. (2001);
(3): en Sandoval-Castillo (2006); (4): en Ben-Souissi (2007); (5): en Escobar-Sanchez et al. (2014)


The southern stingray Dasyatis americana (Hildebrand & Schroeder, 1928) is a coastal marine and estuarine species with a wide distribution in the Western Atlantic (McEachran & Fechhelm 1998). Its geographic distribution is from New Jersey to Florida in the United States, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and bordering the northern coast of South America to southeastern Brazil (McEachran & Fechhelm 1998). In the western Campeche Bank, in southern Gulf of Mexico, D. americana is the most frequently landed among elasmobranch species, with mean landings of 1.400 tons per year in the state of Campeche, Mexico (Ramírez-Mosqueda et al. 2012).

This paper describes the first report of total albinism in southern stingray D. americana in southeastern Mexico.



An albino subadult female Dasyatis americana was found during a sampling conducted on January 25, 2014 to estimate distribution sizes and yields of different species caught by commercial small scale fisheries in San Pedro, Tabasco, in the Southern Gulf of Mexico (18°39'32.35" N, 92°28'13.45"W). The specimen was caught on a bottom- long line with circle hooks at a depth between 18 and 25 m on sandy substrate. According to information provided by the fishermen, other species were included in the same catch, such as Bagre marinus, Ariopsis felis, and Rhizoprionodon terranovae. The specimen was collected and transported to the laboratory where it was identified using the criteria described by Hoese & Moore (1998). The disc width of the fresh specimen was measured with a metric tape and total weight (g) with electronic portable digital weight scale. The specimen was deposited in the Ichthyology Collection of the Colegio de la Frontera (ECOSUR) under catalog number ECOSC 7561.



The albino southern stingray Dasyatis americana measures 640 mm in disc width and its total weight is 9,850 g. This specimen size corresponds to a sub adult stingray (Ramírez-Mosqueda et al. 2012). The entire stingray was completely white in color and devoid of any pigmentation (Fig. 1a). In pigmented specimens of D. americana the top of the body normally varies between olive brown and green in adults, dark grey in juveniles, whilst the underside is predominantly white (Fig. 1b).


Figure 1. Dorsal view of the southern stingray Dasyatis americana. a) albino and b) normal. (Photo by A.T. Wakida-Kusunoki).
Photographs were taken to fresh specimens
Figura 1. Vista dorsal de la raya sureña Dasyatis americana. a) albino y b) normal. (Fotografía de A.T. Wakida-Kusunoki).
Fotografias tomadas de un espécimen en estado fresco


Already 41 species of elasmobranchs have been reported with albinism (Clark 2002, Ishihara et al. 2001, Sandoval-Castillo et al. 2006, Ben-Souisii 2007, Hoare 2009, Escobar-Sanchez et al. 2014).

Schwartz & Safrit (1977) reported an albino specimen of D. americana from the coast of North Carolina, USA. This specimen was not a total albino because certain parts of the body had coloration. Until now, no record of total albino southern stingray has been reported. On Mexican Gulf coast, albinism has been reported only in catfish Bagre marinus (Wakida-Kusunoki & Amador del Angel 2013).

The occurrence of albinism in fishes might be caused by three factors: random genetic alterations, contamination effects, or genetic alteration due to small population size (Evangelista-Leal et al. 2013).The coastal zone of Tabasco and Campeche is impacted by oil extraction and discharge of rivers. The main sources of heavy metals in the area include mineral deposits, chronic natural oil seep (natural sources) rivers and municipal discharges and oil (anthropogenic sources) (Ponce-Velez et al. 2006). Recent studies indicate that the concentrations of heavy metals in sediment south of the Gulf of Mexico are in the range reported for other coastal regions of the Gulf of Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and England (Ponce-Velez et al. 2006). Also, reports of heavy metal concentrations in muscle tissue of organisms such as fish and crustaceans are below thresholds of international standards (Vázquez et al. 2008).

The fishing pressure on Dasyatis americana of this region has been high. Its mean landings are 1,964 tons per year in the state of Campeche and Tabasco (CONAPESCA 2012)1.The lack of fishery management measures in bottom long line fishery might have caused a decline in the abundance of this species. The small effective population size might have favored inbreeding and increased the homozygosis in the albinism gene (Sanabria et al. 2010).

The lack of coloration in albinos has been suggested to increase susceptibility to predation or render them less attractive for reproduction (Sandoval-Castillo et al. 2006); higher susceptibility to disease and poor vision may decrease the viability of albinos. This is the second report of albinism in fishes from the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Both reports are species subject to commercial fishing with a high number of individuals being captured for decades with no previous record of albinism. This, then, is a rare event still undetected in most wild fish species, at least regarding adult individuals.

Although the albinism events recorded might be the result of random events, the fact remains that human factors such as pollution and excessive fishing pressure might be involved, thereby warranting a thorough investigation of these aspects in the region.



The author would like to thank to Mario Dominguez Rodriguez, worker of the fish reception center in San Pedro, Tabasco, for donating the specimen, to Fernando T. Wakida for proofreading the last version of the manuscript, to Alexandra Toro Ramírez, Claudia Moreno Miranda and Jose Luis Cruz Sanchez for your help in the sampling survey and photographs and the anonymous reviewers for the useful comments to the manuscript.



1CONAPESCA. 2012. Anuarios Estadísticos de Pesca. Comisión Nacional de Pesca, México. <>



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Received 2 July 2014 and accepted 26 December 2014
Editor: Claudia Bustos D.

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