Newport Aquarium in Kentucky has announced that one of its Shark rays, named Sweet Pea, has given birth. She is the first documented Shark ray to breed in captivity.
The pups were born on Friday at an offsite facility in Kentucky. Initially there were seven pups but just six — three males and three females — survived the five-hour birthing process.
This historical achievement was made possible through Newport Aquarium’s revolutionary Shark Ray Breeding Program (SRBP), established in February 2007.
After each pup was given a medical check, they were all moved into a separate tank adjacent to Sweet Pea’s aquarium. The pups’ weight ranged from 2.1 to 2.4 pounds, and their length from 19.3" to 18.4".
The next step for staff will be getting the pups eating as well as monitoring the way they interact with one another. Their tank has been filled with live crab so they have plenty to eat once they start to become hungry.
"We’ll be providing them with a smorgasbord of live food items that they might encounter in the wild," said Jen Hazeres, who along with fellow aquatic biologist Scott Brehob works closely with the SRBP.
Sweet Pea and her new newborn pups will go on exhibit at Newport Aquarium on separate to-be-determined dates.
This now brings the total number of Shark rays at Newport Aquarium to ten — more than any other institution in the world.
Shark rays (Rhina ancylostoma) — also known as Bowmouth guitarfish — are found in the Indo-Pacific region. Feeding mostly on crabs and shellfish, they live near the coast and offshore reefs in tropical waters. Their common name arises from the fact that they have a wide head area resembling a ray, while the rest of the body is shark-like.
Shark rays are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. Threats include habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and the use of their fins for products including shark fin soup.
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