Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Ga., announced the rare birth of black blotched fantail ray pups. The Aquarium welcomes and celebrates the birth of every animal, but these ray pups represent an important milestone. To the knowledge of Georgia Aquarium, these new additions are the first of their kind born in human care in the United States and only the third known human care birth worldwide.
“As a leading institution in stingray care, Georgia Aquarium staff and volunteers are proud to be a part of such a significant event,” said Dr. Tim Mullican, senior vice president of zoological operations at Georgia Aquarium. “This birth is a testament to the quality of exhibit and animal care practices at Georgia Aquarium as reproduction is an indication of healthy, thriving animals.”
The pups were discovered by the Georgia Aquarium Dive Operations team during a routine dive in the world’s largest aquarium exhibit, Ocean Voyager. The litter consists of five pups, including two males and three females. Thus far the stingray pups appear to be in excellent health. The zoological team, working with veterinary services currently have the pups housed in a behind-the-scenes area where the young animals can be under continuous observation during this critical, post-partum phase of their development. Four of the five pups are currently about 10-to-11 inches in diameter while the fifth pup is about seven inches.
This exotic species of stingray, endemic to the South Pacific, has been gracefully gliding along the bottom of Ocean Voyager for about eight years. According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, this species of ray is considered vulnerable, yet another reason why this birth is so significant. Georgia Aquarium currently houses three adult black blotched fantail rays, two females, each about five feet wide and 400 pounds, and one male, four feet wide and weighing 125 pounds.
These remarkable rays are known to reach 11 feet from snout to tail and 10 feet in disc width. Their diet consists mostly of bottom fishes, bivalves, crabs and shrimp. To find prey this ray often digs large holes into the sand by blowing water from its mouth. However, because the pups are still in the early stages of development, staff are hand feeding them natural diet items such as shrimp, squid and other similar foods, creating a diet based on meeting their nutritional needs. With their dramatic composition and poise in the water, these rays are undoubtedly a fan favorite and inspiration to all who watch them.
For more information about black blotched fantail rays and other animals at Georgia Aquarium, please visit the animal guide at animalguide.georgiaaquarium.org or sign up for the Georgia Aquarium e-newsletter at www.georgiaaquarium.org.