- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) - The Newport Aquarium is celebrating the births of six healthy shark rays.

The Kentucky Enquirer (https://bit.ly/1hNO0sU) reports they are among the first of their kind born in captivity.

Three males and three females were born Jan. 24, but aquarium officials waited a few days to make the announcement.

General Curator Mark Dvorak said the animal husbandry team wanted some time to observe the newborns and wanted to see how many would survive.

“It’s kind of that feeling you have as a first-time parent, where it’s suddenly, ‘Wow. The babies are here,’” said General Curator Mark Dvornak. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about.”

A seventh pup died shortly after birth.

Dvorak said the pups weighed 2.1 to 2.4 pounds and were each about a foot-and-a-half long. They were removed from their mother, Sweet Pea, because sharks don’t care for their young.

“There’s no maternal care,” he said. “Mom does not stick around, defend them or anything.”

The births came earlier than expected. The aquarium had just announced on Jan. 18 that Sweet Pea was pregnant.

“It did happen sooner than we thought it would. We were expecting one to three months,” said Jeff Geiser, spokesman for the aquarium.

The Newport Aquarium has the largest number of captive shark rays in the world with Sweet Pea, another female and two males.

Dvornak said each day brings a new discovery for biologists, including that the pups are hovering more than swimming, that they have a distinct spotted pattern and that they closely resemble their mother.

“They’re just beautiful renditions of an adult shark ray,” Dvornak said.

He said no date has been set to display the animals. A team of employees is keeping a careful watch on their health and development.

“We’re just proceeding very cautiously,” Dvornak said. “It’s all new. We don’t have anything to compare them with.”


Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, https://www.nky.com

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