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Shark Rays

Nine Shark Ray Pups Born at Newport Aquarium 

Shark Ray Breeding Program Continues to Lead Efforts in Saving Vulnerable Species


Newport Aquarium confirmed that its pregnant shark ray, Sweet Pea, gave birth to nine shark ray pups on Tuesday evening at its offsite animal health facility. Six female and three male pups were born. The pups’ weight ranged from 2.0 to 2.4 pounds, while their length ranged from 18 – 22 inches.  

“All indications are that this was a successful birth,” said Mark Dvornak, Newport Aquarium’s General Curator. “We are optimistic, but know the most challenging days are ahead, as the animal care team’s focus shifts to closely attending to, and monitoring the shark ray pups.”

Sweet Pea now has the distinction of being the only shark ray in the world with two documented pregnancies and births.  And, the successful delivery of these nine shark ray pups helps Newport Aquarium further advance its Shark Ray Breeding Program with the long term goal of sustainability of this vulnerable species.

 “The world’s shark ray population is depleting at a faster rate than it’s being replaced due to habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and the use of their fins for products like fin soup,” said Ric Urban, chief conservation officer at Newport Aquarium. “The knowledge gained from Sweet Pea’s pregnancy and the pups’ births have already proven valuable in gaining unprecedented scientific knowledge to help shark ray populations in the wild survive.”

Sweet Pea is doing well and will return to the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit when the aquarium’s veterinarian team approves her move. Shark rays do not tend to their offspring. The pups will remain under constant observation at the aquarium’s offsite animal health facility and will transition to the aquarium at a future date.  Three shark rays are currently on exhibit at Newport Aquarium- Scooter, Sunshine and Spike.

Background:
In October 2015, Newport Aquarium announced both its female shark rays, Sweet Pea and Sunshine were pregnant– the second and third documented cases of shark ray breeding under professional animal care in the world.  Sweet Pea became the first documented shark ray to become pregnant in 2013.

Nearly seven years after Newport Aquarium established the Shark Ray Breeding Program, Sweet Pea became the first shark ray to have multiple documented pregnancies.

Sunshine, Newport Aquarium’s second female shark ray, is no longer pregnant as previously announced in October 2015. Newport Aquarium’s veterinary team is working to learn more, but it appears that her body either expelled or reabsorbed the fetuses, which is not uncommon with similar species.




Shark Rays 

See our four Shark Rays on display in the Newport Aquarium’s Surrounded By Sharks Exhibit! Extremely rare Shark Rays Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike will win you over with their human-like eyes, and breathtaking grace.

The name Shark Ray, (Rhina ancylostoma), alludes to its appearance.  The front section is broad like a ray with prehistoric ridges along the head, while the back section resembles a shark with dual dorsal fins.

Like sharks and rays, they have a skeleton made of cartilage. A Shark Ray’s mouth is equipped with very strong jaws that are covered in small rounded teeth. The strong jaw and teeth are extremely effective in crushing the hard shells of animals such as crabs and lobsters, their favorite foods.

Meet our Shark Rays on display in our Surrounded By Sharks Exhibit:

  • Sweet Pea – In 2005, Newport Aquarium made history by becoming the first aquarium in the Western Hemisphere to display our first Shark Ray, Sweet Pea.
  • Scooter – Added in 2007, to create the world’s first Shark Ray Breeding Program.
  • Sunshine – Arrived at Newport Aquarium in 2009, and was on display in our Coral Reef Exhibit before transferring to the Aquarium’s off-site research holding facility.  She has now joined the rest of the Shark Ray group in the Surrounded By Sharks Exhibit.
  • Spike – Our newest member of the Shark Ray group.  He weighs just over 200 pounds and is the second male added to the group.