16 August 2008

More Rays

She said: 'It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind. 'It's hard to say exactly how many there were, but in the range of a few thousand.

'We were surrounded by them, without seeing the edge of the school, and we could see many under the water surface too. I feel very fortunate I was there in the right place at the right time to experience nature at his best.'

Measuring up to 7 ft (2.1 meters) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden Rays are also more prosaically known as Cow Nose Rays. They have long, pointed pectoral fins that separate into two lobes in front of their high-domed heads and give them a cow-like appearance.

Despite having poisonous stingers, they are known to be shy and non-threatening when
in large schools. The population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates, in schools of as many as 10,000, clockwise from western Florida to the Yucatan.

Cownose ray
(Rhinoptera bonasus)

Credit: Brenna Hernandez

AZA Institution: Shedd Aquarium

Like their namesake, the cownose rays are quite placid. They can often be seen swimming up to divers in exhibits such as the Caribbean Reef at Shedd Aquarium. Such interactions can help dispel myths that certain ray species are dangerous, while instilling the need to respect all animals and inspiring visitors to look past their fears in order to recognize the uniqueness and importance of our planet's diversity.

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