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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 11:25 GMT
Baby rays 'a first' for aquarium
Baby cownose ray
In the wild, cownose rays are found in the South Atlantic
Two baby rays - believed to the first of their kind bred in captivity in the UK - have been born at an aquarium.

Two female cownose rays at the Oceanarium in Bournemouth, Dorset, gave birth to their young, known as pups, within hours of each other.

The school of cownose rays arrived at the aquarium in 1998, but had not produced any offspring until now.

Cownose rays give birth to one or two live pups, an ability which is rare among fish.

The aquarium said the newborn pups, which are both thought to be male, are thought to be the first to have been bred in captivity in the UK.

We have high hopes that these will be the first of many
Oliver Buttling

The newborn rays, which have a wingspan of 8in (20cm), have been moved to a quarantine area where they will learn to feed, before being moved to a display tank.

Throughout the 10-month pregnancy, staff at the oceanarium have been taking advice from colleagues at an aquarium in Chicago in the US, which had already bred cownose rays successfully.

Oliver Buttling, marine biologist at the oceanarium said: "We have a great track record for the captive breeding of sharks, seahorses and southern stingrays, so we are extremely proud to add cownose rays to our successes.

"Captive breeding not only shows that the creatures are happy in their environment and behaving as they would do in the wild, but also helps reduce the demand on wild populations.

"We have high hopes that these will be the first of many."

In the wild, cownose rays are found in the south Atlantic, from Florida to the Caribbean and they use the mangrove lagoons of the Florida Keys as their nursery ground.

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