A north-east attraction has welcomed its first new arrival of 2019 earlier than expected.
The baby ray was born prematurely at Macduff Marine Aquarium after staff noticed it was beginning to burst out of its egg case.
It only measures two inches and has been moved into quarantine for the next few weeks until it can be fed a diet of chopped squid and krill.
The infant is still attached to its yolk sac which will provide all the nutrients needed in the meantime.
Rays are born one at a time and are kept in little cases known as mermaid’s purses until the embryos are ready to hatch after around nine months.
New Year, new beginnings 🙂 This baby ray has hatched prematurely from its egg case – it has been put in our quarantine…
It takes up to two years for the fish to mature into either males or females.
Claire Matthews, manager at Macduff Marine Aquarium, said it is being kept in a polythene case for protection at the moment.
She said: “Rays are part of the shark family so the baby is inside this mermaid’s purse and nourished by a yolk for about nine months.
“Our female rays are obviously breeding very well at the moment and this little one was found with its pouch half open and it was coming out. It has a yellow yolk attached to it.
“We’ve put it in a poly pocket which protects it while it is in our quarantine tank for a couple of weeks and once it is out we can start feeding it.
“You can’t yet tell the gender and it will be a year or two before we know if it’s a boy or a girl.”
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This is not the first time the High Shore attraction has welcomed newborn marine creatures.
In October last year, a 200-strong fry – the collective term for a litter of seahorses – was welcomed to the aquarium.
Five of the spiny seahorses beat the odds to survive with only one in 2,000 making it to adulthood in the wild.