Happy February! Welcome to this month’s feature on BTG! Thank you to Thom L. Benson from the Tennessee Aquarium and the staff for all of their help. This is a great article and we hope you enjoy it. All photos are courtesy of the Tennessee Aquarium.
Q: How many adult stingrays does the Aquarium have? What different types of stingrays do you have?
A: The Tennessee Aquarium currently has over 40 adult stingrays comprised of 9 different species. Saltwater species include Atlantic stingray (Dasyatis sabina), bluespotted stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii), Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana), Haller’s round stingray (Urobatos halleri), with freshwater species consisting of ocellate river stingray (Potamotrygon motoro), white blotched river stingray (Potamotrygon leopoldi), black stingray (Potamotrygon henlei), and the giant whip tail ray (Himantura dalyensis).
Q: The aquarium just celebrated the birth of new stingrays! How many were born? Did you name them? If so, what are their names?
A: Five Haller’s stingray pups were born in this litter. They are not named, though they will receive a local ID consisting of letters and numbers.
Q: How long is gestation for stingrays? How many young can a stingray have at once? What is the birth process like?
A: Gestation for these particular stingrays is approximately three months. They typically have 1-6 pups, with 2-3 being the norm. The birth process is fairly quiet. These animals are ovoviviparious. The pups develop in “eggs” of sorts inside the mother’s body. They hatch from these eggs and are further nourished by uterine milk until they are born. They are born looking like miniature adults ready to hunt and fend for themselves.
Q: During the pregnancy, are there any special environment or nutritional needs for the stingrays?
A: Nothing special in particular. Keepers ensure that the animals get enough food to support the developing pups. They are also given a stingray specific multivitamin, though our non-gravid adults are given it as well.
Q: How big are the stingrays when they are born?
A: This particular species is usually around 3” at birth.
Q: Do you keep the baby stingrays behind the scenes for a period of time before showing them on exhibit?
A: We do, they will need to grow a little before they are big enough to go with the adults.
Q: What type of special care do the little ones require?
A: While they require the same care as the adults, we keep them separate because of dietary concerns. The little ones will easily get outcompeted for food in the main exhibits. Therefore we keep them isolated so we can feed them larger quantities of much smaller food than the adults receive.
Q: What do the babies eat? Do they spend time with their adult parents?
A: The pups eat various small foods: squid, shrimp, clam, and fish diced up into very small pieces. They do not. The adults do not recognize them as their offspring, nor do they offer any type of parental care. They will likely not consume the young like many fish, but will outcompete them for food, therefore they are separated.
Q: What behaviors are the first for the little ones to pick up on/learn?
A: The first and most important thing they learn is to accept prepared foods. Between the stress of being born and moved from the main exhibit and also being pretty nutritionally sound (they are born with enough reserves to last several days before they need to start eating), getting them to accept food can be a difficult task.
Q: What is the best part of having baby stingrays?
A: They are so adorable!