First spotted eagle rays born at NMA

Posted: 15th August, 2016

The UK’s first captive-bred spotted eagle rays have successfully been born at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, following a seven-year project.

Kitts, one of the Aquarium’s female spotted eagle rays, recently gave birth to twin pups – one male and one female – both are healthy and feeding well. In a UK-first, the spotted eagle ray duo are the culmination of a high profile and long-standing collaboration by the team at the National Marine Aquarium, with other aquariums across Europe.

James Wright, Curator at the National Marine Aquarium, commented: “We are delighted with the success of our spotted eagle ray captive breeding programme, and to have two healthy pups at the Aquarium is testament to the hard work that everyone has contributed over several years.

“We have had spotted eagle rays here at the Aquarium since 2009 with them arriving as juveniles, but it’s been an important journey for us to learn as much as we can about them during that time, in order to first be the only UK aquarium to successfully maintain the adults. Eagle rays require a well thought out and dedicated level of care, and as such they are incredibly difficult to breed in captivity. Our team in Plymouth has been working closely with colleagues from Royal Burger’s Zoo, Arnhem in The Netherlands, which is the only other aquarium in Europe to have successful bred spotted eagle Rrays in the past.

“A significant part of what we do at the National Marine Aquarium is leading pioneering conservation projects such as this captive breeding programme, it is essential for us to carry out this work, so that we can continue to learn about unusual or less well-known species, such as the spotted eagle rays, to help conserve them for the future. Our next challenge is to continue the breeding programme with the eagle rays that we have here at the Aquarium, we’re hoping that the knowledge we now have will mean more positive results in the future.”

The spotted eagle ray twins – as yet unnamed – are currently in the Aquarium’s Atlantic Ocean acclimation tank, where they are getting used to their new surroundings and leaning to ‘target’ feed, before they go on full display to visitors later this autumn.

Spotted eagle ray fact file:

  • In the wild spotted eagle rays are usually found in tropical seas; off the coast of West Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico
  • Spotted eagle rays feed on a diet of small fish and crustaceans
  • Fully grown, spotted eagle rays can measure up to 9m in total length and weigh up to 230kg
  • Their ‘spots’ are usually white on black or dark blue discs, with white underneath
  • Aetobatus narinari is the scientific name for spotted eagle rays but there is some discussion over their exact classification.

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