A premature baby ray that was kept in a plastic bag for its safety has been successfully released at a north-east aquarium – and it all went “swimmingly”.
The baby thornback was born in December, roughly a month early, prompting staff at Macduff Marine Aquarium to come up with the ingenious solution.
The plan to protect the fragile creature in a water-filled bag was hatched by aquarist Frazer Mackay.
Frazer said: “We have done it in the past but it is very unusual.
“A colleague had done it a few years ago but sadly it was less successful as the ray wasn’t as developed.”
Ray embryos live in an egg for around five months, surviving off the yolk.
To the fascination of the aquarium’s staff, the premature ray was found born with the yolk sac still attached.
The zip-locked bag emulated the same environment and helped ensure its survival.
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Frazer said the operation to release the little ray from his plastic protection went as well as could be expected.
He said: “It went swimmingly, pardon the pun. He is back in the tank with his brothers and sisters.
“We were all so happy he survived in the bag because we were slightly worried as it is not as strong as their sacs would be.
“He is moving and breathing.”
The baby ray is now in the care of attentive aquarium staff as they keep an eye that he continues to develop.
“Now it’s in the tank we have to make sure it’s breathing, eating and growing,” said Frazer.
The gender of the creature is still unknown because it can’t be identified until the body is more developed.
Members of the public won’t be able to see the aquarium’s new arrival unless they book a behind-the-scenes ticket.
However, since the lifespan of thornback rays is around 15 years, it’s hoped he or she will eventually go on display in the main visitor space at the Macduff tourist attraction.