The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham, in the UK, is celebrating the arrival of three Blue-spotted Stingray babies. This is a first-ever for the city centre based Breed, Rescue, Protect team.
Native to the eastern and western Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean, the graceful creatures are a high-risk species, also known as Maskrays, and are currently being threatened by overfishing, exploitation and the destruction of coral reefs. Only breeding once a year, three successful Blue-spotted Stingrays births, from two different mums, is a huge success for The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.
The babies weighed less than 170g, measured less than 30cm long and 16cm wide, when they were first born a few weeks ago. The miniature miracles could grow up to 47cm wide and 70cm long, with a very venomous barb of up to 30cm long. They are easily distinguished by their reddish brown bodies, distinctive blue centers, and scattered black and blue spots.
The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham’s Aquarist, Naomi Bird, is perfectly placed to help the three very precious babies. A mum to be herself, it isn’t the first time her maternal instinct has been called upon at the attraction. She has already raised the penguin colony, which absolutely adores her.
Naomi commented, “Blue-spotted Stingrays face serious threat from human-induced problems. If we want them around in our children’s lifetime, it is important we act now. So we are absolutely delighted that two of our resident Blue-spotted Stingrays have bred successfully. I’d encourage everyone to take time to explore our underwater world in the heart of the city centre to learn more and support SEA LIFE’s work to protect and preserve our precious sea creatures.”
The Blue-spotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii), or Kuhl’s stingray, is a species of stingray of the Dasyatidae family. It was recently changed from Dasyatis kuhlii in 2008 after morphological and molecular analyses show that it is part of a distinct genus, Neotrygon.
The body of the species is rhomboidal and green with blue spots. Maximum width is estimated 46.5 centimeters (18.3 in).
The stingray’s lifespan is estimated thirteen years of age for females and ten years for males.
The Blue-spotted Stingray feeds on shrimp, small bony fish, mollusks, crabs and other worms. Due to the fact that this ray is a shallow bottom feeder, it has a small variety of marine life to prey on. The species overpowers its prey by pinning them to the bottom of the seafloor with its fins. It has numerous tiny teeth, with the lower jaw being slightly convex. Like most stingrays, they also have plate-like teeth to crush prey.
They are generally found from Indonesia to Japan, and most of Australia. This stingray species is also targeted by many parasites such as: tapeworms, flatworms, and flukes.
The Blue-spotted Stingray is ovoviviparous (the embryos are retained in eggs within the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch). The embryos receive nourishment from the mothers’ uterine fluid. Mothers give birth to up to seven pups per litter; these pups range from 6 inches (150 mm) to 13 inches (330 mm) long at birth.
The species currently has no official classification by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to the IUCN Red List: “The Bluespotted Maskray (Neotrygon kuhlii) is reported throughout a wide range in the Indo-Pacific region, but may be a species-complex of more than five species. Investigation is vital to resolve the taxonomic issues associated with this species-complex and due to this taxonomic uncertainty it is not possible to assess the species beyond Data Deficient at present. The Bluespotted Maskray species-complex is extensively exploited in parts of its range, and is often abundant in Asian fish market landings. A relatively small stingray (to 47 cm disc width), it is likely more resilient to exploitation than larger inshore batoids, but overall management of catches is lacking across most of its range. It is a common bycatch of Australian prawn trawl fisheries where it is discarded. Information is generally required on catch rates and rates of fishing mortality across its range; the significance of this may be dependent on the taxonomic status of the species-complex as some species may be found to have restricted occurrences. It is also exhibited in some public aquariums, but does not constitute a major species in aquarium trade. Further work is required to identify the species involved and make full assessments of their status.”
Visitors to the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham can catch a glimpse of the new arrivals as part of the attraction’s “Behind the Scenes Tour” experience (available to pre-book with the best value or ultimate tickets packages online or for purchase at admissions). For further information, or to pre-book tickets online before your visit, please go to: www.SEALIFE.co.uk/birmingham/