May 2, 2014
Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium is hoping to hear the splash of tiny fins in the coming months with the arrival of four small-eyed ray egg-cases, with more expected in the coming days.
The small-eyed ray gets its name from its conspicuously small eyes which are surrounded by tiny thorn-like structures.
The species is classified as ‘Near Threatened’ in the wild which means it may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.
If all goes according to plan, the eggs should start to hatch out later this year.
Blue Reef’s Leanna Lawson said: “Many species of European sharks and rays are increasingly coming under threat of extinction in the wild.
“It would be great if we were able to successfully breed this particular species in captivity,” she added.
Fully grown specimens reach close to a metre in length and the fish’s upper body is usually sandy coloured with regular patterns of spots, lines and blotches.
There is a row of 50 thorns which run along the fish’s midline and it needs to be handled with care.
In UK waters the rays tend to breed during the summer months, producing up to 60 eggs a year – of which only a small percentage reach adulthood..
The eggs, which are often washed up empty on beaches and known as mermaids’ purses, have two long horns and measure around 10cms long.
The embryos take around seven months to hatch and newly-hatched babies are approximately 12-14 centimetres in length.
The status of the small-eyed ray in UK waters is uncertain. It is potentially vulnerable to over-exploitation due to its relatively small geographic distribution and its localised abundance in specific areas.
Recent research has revealed that embryonic rays developing inside their egg-cases can sense external electric currents and remain motionless when a would-be predator approaches.