Cownose Ray Born at Wonders of Wildlife

Aquarium Adventure - Stingray

Published November 28, 2018

An exciting new arrival was recently welcomed at Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. On October 22, animal care staff at the aquarium were greeted by a healthy cownose ray pup who had been born earlier that morning inside the Shipwreck Reef exhibit.

The birth is an exciting milestone for the aquarium, which opened its doors to the public in September 2017 and was voted “America’s Best Aquarium” in 2018 by the readers of USA TODAY.

Animals will only choose to reproduce in human care when they have safe and comfortable living conditions that are conducive to natural breeding behaviors, including healthy gestation and birthing processes. The birth of a pup inside the Stingray Touch Pool is indicative of the excellent work being done by animal care staff at Wonders of Wildlife.

Cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) are a species of eagle ray native to the Atlantic Ocean. During migration, they can be found as far north as New England and as far south as Brazil. The diamond-shaped rays vary in color from gray to brown and feature a “cow nose” shaped head, giving them their namesake.

Cownose rays are listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning that measures must be put in place to ensure the species does not become endangered or extinct.

It takes a cownose ray at least four years to reach maturity; when they do, females only give birth to one live pup per year. These pups are independent at birth, making them immediately vulnerable to ocean predators. A female ray’s gestation period lasts somewhere between 10-12 months, which means rays are not able to reproduce quickly.

Cownose rays eat invertebrates like oysters and clams and occasionally feed on small fish like minnows. The rays use a suction-like action to draw food into their mouths, then grind it between dental plates, similar to human molars. Guests can experience this “suction” phenomenon for themselves by hand-feeding cownose rays and other ray species in the aquarium’s Stingray Touch Pool.

Behind the scenes, the month old pup is being cared for by Wonders of Wildlife staff. When a bit older, she will join her parents at Shipwreck Reef, where guests will be able to visit and feed her too.