Eyeless morphotype in the southern stingray (Dasyatis americana): a non-lethal and frequent abnormality from the southern Gulf of Mexico
Elasmobranchs are active predators that depend on a highly developed visual system. The eyes of the southern stingray, Dasyatis americana, are adapted to a changing light environment in coastal zones. In this study we use morphological characters and molecular methods (mtDNA COI) to describe an eyeless morphotype of D. americana from six individuals collected from commercial small-scale fisheries on the Campeche Bank (southern Gulf of Mexico). Additionally to the eyeless characteristic, both regular (presence of eye) and eyeless (absence of eye) morphotypes have contrasting quantitative values and qualitative features for different phenotypic traits (color, teeth number, pelvic fin and spiracle form). Mature female and male eyeless morphotype had functional internal reproductive structures. Using the bar code gene, we found conclusive evidence that the eyeless morphotype belongs to the species D. americana. This is the first report on reproductively functional eyeless individuals of this species or close relatives elsewhere, which live sympatrically with regular D. americana individuals in the southern Gulf of Mexico.