The birth of a Manta ray in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan on Saturday night is believed to be a world-first in captivity.
The newborn Giant manta ray, a female, was 1.9m (over 6 ft) in width at birth " almost half the size of its mother!
This is a second Manta ray-first for the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which was the first public aquarium to keep these Manta rays in captivity almost 20 years ago when they started in 1988. They are still only one of a few in the world managing to do so successfully.
Valuable biological dataThe Giant manta ray is known to be the largest species of Manta ray, with the potential to attain a width of 6.7m.
However, a lot of information on the species is still unknown to science - and, with this being the first captive birth of a Giant manta ray, the staff at the aquarium hope to record some valuable data.
Already for the first time, the duration of the pregnancy of the Giant manta ray is known. Mating was observed in the Kuroshio tank at the aquarium on June 8th 2006, meaning that the pregnancy took a total of 374 days.
Minoru Toda, of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, told the Washington post that they hope to learn more information about the species through making "sure the baby grows in good health."
Aquarium successThe parents of the young Giant manta ray are long-term inhabitants of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. The father, who is 3.5m in width, has been at the aquarium since May 1992. The mother is 4.2m in width, and was taken in by the aquarium in August 1998 after hitting a fishing net off the island of Okinawa.
Noriyasu Suzuki, of the Izu-Mito Sea Paradise commercial aqua zoo in western Japan, told the Washington Post that "aquariums that raise manta rays are rare to begin with", and so to have a successful captive birth from a mating that took place within the aquarium itself is a big achievement for the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.
The birth of the Giant manta ray was witnessed, and recorded, by staff at the aquarium. The recording was broadcast by NHK, Japans national broadcaster, on Sunday 17th June, showing the newborn female emerging "rolled-up" from its mother, before spreading out its 1.9m-wide fins.