Feeding the Cownose Rays

A cownose ray moves forward to take a squid from me.

On my Marine Biologist Day at the London Aquarium, I fed a number of animals, including the school of Cownose Rays living in the large tank at the aquarium. Living in the tank there are a selection of turtles, smaller sharks and guitarfish, as well as these amazing rays. Monica, Pete and I went above the large tank, to where an open top revealed the all of the aquaria below us. Using a long stick, I held out squids for the enthusiastic rays, who surfaced in order to take the food, sometimes squabbling over it. Monica and I made sure that all of the rays got some food, while Pete fed the sharks, and very soon there was no squid left. The turtles in the tank came to eat the squid too, but since they are not meant to eat meat, I had to avoid letting them take away squids.

Cownose Rays, Rhinoptera Bonasus in Latin, are a type of eagle ray, which are the larger open sea rays that live in the more open waters around the world. Whereas some rays stay near the sea bed, eagle rays swim into open waters in order to feed an relax. Cownose Rays travel in groups of nine or ten in the wild, so keeping them in a group in the tank keeps them happy and healthy, as though they were living naturally. The aquarium puts emphasis on making sure the animals do not stray far from their natural roots, so the food that they receive, squids in this case, is similar to the kind of food they would catch in the wild, which includes molluscs such as octopus, oysters and clams. The groups flap their wings in sandy areas to dredge up the seabed and reveal the crustaceans and other prey beneath.Monica and I give one of the smaller rays its lunch.

It was a real pleasure to feed these fun and inquisitive creatures, as they strike truly impressive figures as their shivers (shoals) go gliding through the water. I hope that I have more opportunities like this in the future.

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