Saturday, August 13, 2011

Well-Traveled Ray FInds a Home at the Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium recently received a roughtail stingray, Dasyatis centroura, from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. This female ray has a rather interesting past, including how many places she's travelled before coming to Chattanooga.
According to Beth Firchau, Curator of Fishes & Dive Operations Supervisor at the Virginia Aquarium, this ray almost became a shark snack. "This roughtail was born in 2006. She is the offspring of a female that was wild caught in 1996 off Wachapreague, Virginia and a wild caught male ray that came to us from the Adventure Aquarium," said Firchau. "The ray was born in the Norfolk Canyon Aquarium. Interestingly enough its mother had been bitten by one of our sharks and was in recovery when she pupped." The newborn ray was kept in an off-exhibit area until she was big enough to be placed on display in the Virginia Aquarium's ray touch tank. When she grew too big for that exhibit, she moved to Chattanooga.
Matt Hamilton, a Tennessee Aquarium aquarist, (seen above and below) and others have been target training this ray to "eat on cue" while she has been going through quarantine at the Animal Care Facility. Put simply, a target is lowered into the water which attracts the ray for feeding. By teaching the ray to come to one location to dine, it helps ensure that she'll get the proper amount of food and nutritional supplements.
Hamilton said this move from the ACF to the Tennessee Aquarium was one of the smoothest he's helped with. "It may be that because she was in a touch tank, she's used to a lot of contact," said Hamilton. "She's always seemed very calm and easy to work with."
In the transport container, this ray seemed used to moving day. Hamilton believes her light coloration reflects her relatively light-colored homes. Both the touch tank at the Virginia Aquarium and quarantine tank at the ACF were rather light. Her new home in the Secret Reef is darker, so she may end up looking like the southern stingrays that are already on exhibit in Ocean Journey.
So how will visitors tell her apart from the other rays? First of all, her tail is MUCH longer than the other stingrays. And eventually, she might be a rather large ray. Roughtails in the wild have been known to reach more than seven feet across! They sometimes tip the scales at nearly 450 pounds!
Fortunately for our aquarists, she found a new home at the Tennessee Aquarium before she got that big. It only took two people to carry her when she was moved from the transport container to the acclimation pool above the Secret Reef.
This ray is no longer a wayward ray. She's now a stay at home ray. She'll spend enough time in the acclimation pool to make sure she keeps responding to the target feeding. Once aquarists are certain she's eating well every time they "ring the dinner bell," then the gate will be lifted and she'll be free explore the rest of her new home.


Carol said...

Can't wait for the opportunity to see this beautiful animal!

Heather Spitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Spitz said...

I would love to see a ray in fish tanks aquariums, it's good that they are not afraid to hold the ray since it's very dangerous.