Gatlinburg, Tennessee (PressExposure) January 09, 2009 -- Holiday visitors to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies were afforded a rare view of two young male spotted eagle ray pups swimming among hundreds of Indo-Pacific reef fish in the aquariums Coral Reef exhibit.
The two youngsters are believed to be among less than 10 to be captive bred or born anywhere in the world. Spotted eagle rays are not as common as other ray species in public aquariums and there are reportedly less than 15 aquariums in the world that exhibit the species which is found worldwide in tropical and temperate seas.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies has five spotted eagle rays and its sister facility, Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach (S.C.), has three. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the spotted eagle ray as near threatened, meaning that the species is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future
The two male pups were born in the Ray Bay exhibit on Sept. 27, 2008. Upon their birth they were immediately moved from the exhibit to the marine science building at the aquarium and were cared for under the watchful eyes of marine biologists who made sure they stayed healthy and were eating well. The rays were trained to eat from the hand of the biologists to ensure they were eating enough and that they would be prepared for their new environment, where they need to compete for food with hundreds of coral reef fishes.
The pups were introduced into the Coral Reef exhibit on December 9 and have become popular with aquarium guests since. When born, each weighed less than three pounds and was less than 16 inches across. Adult spotted eagle rays (Aetobatis narinari) can grow to a size of 10 feet disc width and weigh up to 500 pounds.
The two rare little guys can be seen in the Coral Reef exhibit where visitors can watch them interact with divers as they are fed several times daily. The aquarium is located at traffic light #5 on the Parkway in Gatlinburg, Tenn. and is open 365 days a year.
Contacts Mary Phillips Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies (865) 548-8808 Phillips@ripleys.com
Tim O'Brien Ripley Entertainment Inc. (615) 646-7465 / (615) 496-5949, cell email@example.com