Little rays of sunshine at Living Coasts
The Director of Living Coasts, Elaine Hayes, said: “We knew the mother was pregnant. Then, when she lost weight, we searched for any babies, but the tank has lots of good hiding places as part of the design! We had a research student monitoring the tank and we even sent in a diver, but he didn’t find anything.”
Keepers eventually found the baby – identified as a male - hiding in a corner of the large ray tank. Torquay’s coastal zoo is home to one male and two other females. Exhibit Manager Clare Rugg explained: “They are independent from birth but the mother would be quite protective. She probably got ill when she was in a weakened state after the birth.”
Only a few collections in the UK hold this species. It is thought to be the first birth in the UK this year. The youngster – about 10 centimetres in diameter - has already survived his critical first few days. Keepers have moved him to a nursery tank and offered him a variety of foods including live ragworms and fish.
Living Coasts has also bred blue spotted stingrays for the third time. Clare said: “There must be something in the water at Living Coasts!”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the bluespotted ribbontail ray as Near Threatened. Although still relatively common and widely distributed, its coral reef habitat is threatened by development and by destructive fishing practices.
Stingray embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch. The young are born live. The gestation period is uncertain, but is thought to be between four to twelve months.
The bluespotted ribbontail ray can grow to be 35cm (14 inches) across, 80cm (31 inches) long and 5 kilos (11 pounds). It is capable of inflicting an excruciating wound with its venomous tail spines.
This latest addition to Living Coasts' budding ray collection has been moved to a smaller nursery tank with the 3 Blue spotted stingrays that have also been born this year.