Photo in the News: First Giant Manta Ray Born in Captivity Dies

Baby giant manta ray born in Japan picture
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Update, June 21, 2007—The first giant manta born in captivity died on Thursday morning, just four days after its birth, officials at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium announced today.

The cause of death was likely bruises caused by its abusive father, which constantly chased and slammed into the baby, the aquarium reported on its Web site.

The reason for the violence remains a mystery, and investigation into the death continues, the aquarium added.

June 18, 2007—You might say she's a little ray of hope.

On Saturday, officials at a Japanese aquarium announced the birth of this not-so-small bundle of joy: a giant manta ray, said to be the first ever born in captivity.

The baby female came into the world larger than most adult humans—6.2 feet (1.9 meters) across—but in giant manta terms, she's still a mere sprout. Her mother has a wingspan of nearly 17 feet (4.2 meters).

A video of the birth, which aired on Japanese national TV, showed the newborn emerging from her mother rolled up like a tube before unfurling her fins and swimming on her own.

According to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in southern Japan, the pup was born after 374 days of gestation—more than three months longer than a human pregnancy—and the baby and both parents seemed to be in good health.

The arrival of the as-yet-unnamed baby ray provides an opportunity to observe the famously elusive creatures throughout their life cycle, aquarium officials added.

"This is not only a celebration for the first [captive birth] in the world but also [a] splendid achievement to clarify the biology of manta rays, which are still cloaked in mystery," officials said in a statement.

Giant mantas, the world's largest rays, are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as near threatened due to pressures from overfishing. But until recently the big rays had no official status because so little was known about them.

Blake de Pastino

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