Native Thornback, Blonde and Undulate Rays
Most of our Rays are adults at 5-7 years old. They are not dangerous and have no venomous barb on the tip of their tail. They cannot generate electricity. However, they do have quite sharp ridges and spikes on their topmost sides.
Believe it or not, these bizarre looking animals are the closest living relative of sharks! Both are from a family called elasmobranchs which are different from other fish as their skeletons are made, not out of bone, but out of cartilage; the same stuff that our ears and noses are made from! This is lighter than bone and helps to keep them buoyant in the water.
Britain is home to a wide variety of marine life, including around 60 species of Ray. Rays are very well adapted for life on the sea bed. They have flattened bodies that enable them to hide under the sand and their bulbous eyes poke out the sand so they can see any tasty prey swimming past. To catch their food, they will leap out of the water and trap it under their huge wings. On the bottom of their body is a mouth full of crushing teeth which are incredibly strong, and able to crunch through hard shelled animals like crabs with no problem.
Can you see the holes on the top of the ray, just behind the eyes? They open and close as if they are blinking, so people often mistake them for eyes, but they actually do an even more important role than that. The rays gills are on the bottom of their body, so it can be difficult for them to breathe while they are buried in the sand as their gills can become clogged with sand. These holes are called spiracles, and the ray uses them to draw water in through the top of their body and flush it out through the gills on the bottom to make sure no sand is trapped!
We do not allow our guests to touch the Rays because excessive touching of the Rays disrupts their protective slime coating. This coating is the fish’s first line of defence from external parasites and illnesses. It protects the animals’ wellbeing. Also, excessive handling is unnatural and potentially stressful.
We have had lots of success breeding our Rays and have even sent young Rays to other aquariums across the country. If you spot Rays in the tank with wounds on them it may be because of their mating practice whereby the male uses his claspers (either side of this tail) to clasp on to the female.