‘Smiling’ baby ray a hit with tourists


A baby ray that appears to be smiling has brought visitors flocking to a Hampshire aquarium.

The month-old thornback ray is just 12 centimetres long and is one of a dozen hatched from eggs known as “mermaid’s purses”.

They were born as part of a captive breeding programme at the Blue Reef Aquarium at Southsea, Hants.

The baby rays are currently being looked after in a special nursery tank, but once large enough they will join adult thornbacks and a variety of sharks, in a huge, open-top pool.

A Blue Reef spokesman said the babies were proving very popular with visitors.

He said: “Their faces are very distinctive, especially the apparent smile.

“Some people have likened them to an alien or even the ‘The Last Human’ featured in Doctor Who.

British waters are home to nine different species of ray, including the electric and the giant skate, which can reach up to three metres.

“Thornbacks are the most common ray in British waters and can grow up to 1.2 metres in length,” the spokesman said.

“They are called thornbacks because their upper body is covered with coarse prickles.