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Just a trim

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Volunteering | Fish

Friday, November 28, 2008


Every morning, the aquarists check on all the animals under their charge. They make sure they look healthy and active and that the exhibit is clean. Stingray aquarists have to also check the length of the rays’ stingers. When we find a stingray whose stinger is too long, we trim them. However, the stingrays would never sting anyone even if their stingers have not been trimmed. Stingrays sting only to defend themselves when they are frightened. They have become so used to being petted that being touched does not bother them one bit. On top of that, the regular trimmings have made their stingers blunt and therefore, useless. You can see a ray’s stinger extending out of the base of the tail.

The essential equipment needed to trim stingers is a net and a doggy nail clipper. The stinger on a ray is similar to a finger nail in that it keeps growing throughout the ray’s lifetime. We have to trim it ocassionally to keep it from getting too long. First we have to catch a ray with the net. This is done not to bring it out of the water, but to restrain it while the aquarists clip the stinger. With one quick snip, the procedure is complete. The whole process takes less than a minute. It is always surprising to see how sedate the rays are when we do this to them. Most of the rays at the Aquarium were born here which means they have been undergoing stinger trimmings their whole lives. They probably know that once they are in the net, the faster their stinger is trimmed, the sooner they get to rejoin their friends.

There are three species of rays at Shark Lagoon, all of which get regular stinger trimmings. The cownose rays tend to struggle a little when they are in the net because they are generally more active. The southern stingrays are extremely calm when it comes to getting trimmed. These are the easiest to work with. The mangrove rays are a bit challenging to restrain simply because they are so big. We have few nets large enough to accommodate them. It is easiest to see the stinger on a mangrove ray because they have bigger stingers. Next time you are at Shark Lagoon, look for a thick, white stick coming out of the top of the mangrove rays’ tail. That is the stinger.

Just a trim
This is a fresh stingray clipping. Neat, huh?  | © David Chen

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Bob Wiersma

Saturday, January 10, 2009 11:38 AM

The resources that you have on line are very useful for any aged learner. Do you have any worksheets for students as they walk through the aquarium?

Anitza's avatar


Saturday, January 10, 2009 03:46 PM

Thanks Bob! We have scavenger hunts for different age ranges and topics. Check them out in our education section of the site under Downloads and Activities.

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Friday, January 16, 2009 02:06 AM

In Greek mythology, Odysseus, the great king of Ithaca, was killed when his son, Telegonus, struck him using a spear tipped with the spine of a stingray.
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