When an eager sea creature came into the world a month earlier than expected, aquarium staff had to get their thinking caps on.
The animal experts wanted to ensure the fragile baby ray was kept safe from harm – and decided the best thing for him was a plastic bag filled with water.
The clever idea ensures the baby ray’s natural conditions are simulated – and those looking after him are keeping their fingers crossed the cute critter will pull through.
“He is doing very well so far, but he was born a month premature, so he is very fragile,” said Claire Matthews, manager at Macduff Marine Aquarium, where the thornback ray – Latin name Raja clavata – was born.
She added: “It’s a zip-locked baggie, which minimises the chances of anything bad happening.”
Visitors to the attraction can look at rays of all shapes and sizes and 10 or so have been born recently.
But staff got a surprise when they attended to a tank in which pregnant rays are kept.
Claire said: “We thought one of the babies hadn’t made it – but then it started moving and surprised us.
“We think it was born a month early. It’s not something you see often.”
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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.
“That will ensure the youngster gets all the nutrients he needs,” said Claire.
She added: “Once it’s gone, we’ll feed the ray chopped squid and krill to give this wee ray of sunshine the best start in life we can. In the meantime, it is important he is protected.”
The ray has been placed in the bag and put in the aquarium’s quarantine tank.
Claire said: “We hope to put him in a tank with other baby rays in a month and then on display three months after that.”
The baby is yet to be named – and aquarium staff said they are open to suggestions from supporters.
There is also an opportunity to adopt the ray by making a donation towards its care at the aquarium.
Visit macduff-aquarium.org.uk for details.