Jun 18, 2007
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- A Japanese aquarium is celebrating a special new arrival this week -- a giant manta ray keepers say is the world's first ever born in captivity.
Video footage shows the 6-foot baby being squeezed out of her mother's body rolled up like a carpet, before unfurling her fins and flitting gracefully across the tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
"My heart was heavy at first because I thought it had been still-born, but we were so relieved when she finally started swimming around," the aquarium's manta ray breeder, Minoru Toda, said in a telephone interview.
The birth on Saturday followed a pregnancy of more than a year after the 4.2 meter mother ray mated with a male manta also kept at the aquarium.
Aquarium workers will have to rely on intuition when feeding and caring for the new baby, because scientific knowledge about their development is limited, Toda said.
The birth will provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to discover more about the world's largest rays, which feed on plankton and small fish and can grow up to almost 7 meters in diameter, the aquarium said on its Web site.