Newport Aquarium prepares to make history as the rare shark ray pups born earlier this year make their public debut later this week, on Friday, June 24, 2016. Newport Aquarium made history in 2005 when Sweet Pea arrived, becoming the first shark ray on exhibit in the Western Hemisphere. Shark rays are native to the western Indo-Pacific, and are found on sandy and mud bottoms near coral reefs. Newport Aquarium started the first Shark Ray Breeding program in 2007, with the introduction of Spike, which made Newport Aquarium home to the most shark rays on exhibit in the Western hemisphere. In addition to the shark ray pups, there are four adult shark rays. Two females: Sweet Pea and Sunshine, and two males: Scooter and Spike.
Not sharks or rays
Shark rays are neither sharks nor rays. Their scientific name is Rhina ancylostoma. Their common name is Bowmouth Guitarfish – their broad arc-shaped head is similar to a bow, and their body tapers into a more streamlined shape, much like that of sharks.
Shark rays have dual fins and human-like eyes.
When they’re born, shark rays have very dark coloration. Their color changes with age. Young shark rays have brown bodies, pale ring-shaped spots covering their pectoral fins, and black bars (almost like stripes) between their eyes. Adults have charcoal or pale gray bodies with small white spots.
They Blend In
Shark rays use their spots for camouflage. Our biologists have observed: shark rays have the ability to adapt their coloration to their environment. When they’re swimming
over a lighter sand/gravel, they tend to be lighter colored. When they’re in darker areas and swimming over a darker bottom, they tend to be darker, and their spots are darker.
Shark rays eat shellfish including lobster and shrimp, which live on the ocean floor. Their heavily-ridged teeth are like coffee grinders that crush prey with hard shells.
They look almost prehistoric. Shark rays are born with a dorsal “thorn ridge” – unusual spiked ridges over their eyes, nape, and pectoral fins, which they use for protection.
No Schoolin’ Around
Shark rays don’t “school” like fish. They’re a solitary species. They prefer to swim on their own, and choose their own separate areas.