Hip Hip Hoo-Ray! Cownose Ray pup born at the National Marine Aquarium

17th October 2017

A new arrival has been welcomed at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth – a healthy female Cownose Ray has been born, joining the Aquarium’s 35-strong number of rays. The pup, which has been named Surge, will be joining the Moon Pool later this week, just in time for the busy October half term period.

The parents of the new arrival are Ebb and Flow, two Cownose Rays which have been at the Aquarium since 2010. During this time the Aquarium’s team of Biologists began to notice the rays exhibiting behavior which could lead to mating, whilst this wasn’t seen there were marks on Flow to suggest it had occurred.

Earlier this year, Flow was suspected to be pregnant and the team carried out an ultrasound, however there was no sign of a pup. Despite the findings from the ultrasound, the team still suspected that Flow was carrying a baby ray and, sure enough, she started to visibly swell. Once these signs were present, the husbandry team moved Flow from public display into a large acclimation tank, so she could settle in for the birth.

James Wright, Curator at the National Marine Aquarium, commented: “We are delighted to welcome our newest arrival to the Aquarium – our pelagic rays are some of our most popular species and it’s been with great anticipation that we’ve been closely monitoring Flow. Once she was moved into her own tank for the birth, we came in one Monday morning very soon after to have a fantastic start to the week, finding mother and daughter happily swimming around!

“The time immediately following the birth of a pup is crucial as they need to absorb the nutrient-rich yolk they are born with in order for it to put on vital weight for its survival. Once this is absorbed it can be a tense time as you need to wait for the pup to start feeding. We were thrilled, and relieved, that the new pup started feeding after a few days and, since then, she’s been doing brilliantly!

“A significant part of what we do at the National Marine Aquarium is leading pioneering conservation projects, such as our breeding programme, and the Cownose Ray birth is an important milestone, allowing us to learn more about the species and to help conserve them for the future. We’re delighted to welcome Surge to the Aquarium, and we look forward to introducing her to visitors during October half term.”

Cownose Ray factfile:

  • Cownose Rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) are mid-sized eagle rays native to the western Atlantic.
    If Cownose Rays migrate, they often swim in groups of thousands!
  • These rays have strong flat teeth, just like a human’s molars, which are used to crunch through oysters and other molluscs.
  • They often like to scoop up sand from the ocean floor and sieve it for tasty snacks. When they do this, sand trickles out from their mouth and looks like underwater snow.
  • Cownose Rays are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Redlist.
  • Cownose Rays have their first pups when they’re around five or six years old. The pups gestate internally for 11 to 12 months.
  • Cownose Rays normally only have one pup at a time, but one female was once found with six pups developing inside her!
  • Cownose Rays can live for around 18 years, the females tend to be slightly bigger, and live slightly longer too.

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