Thursday, 7 June 2012

Baby Manta Rays 'Breathe' In Utero


A rare ultrasound glimpse at a fetal manta ray reveals that that these graceful fish can "breathe" in the womb.

Unlike most animals that give birth to live young, manta rays don't have placentas or umbilical cords. That means their fetuses must get nutrients in some other way. Despite the rays' huge size (they can grow up to 16 feet, or 5 meters, across), marine biologists know little about their lives. New research detailed today (June 5) in the journal Biology Letters reveals more than ever before about manta ray pregnancies.

Until 2007, scientists had no idea how long a manta pregnancy even lasted. That year, a baby manta ray was born into captivity for the first time, after gestating for a year and nine days, according to the conservation group MantaWatch.

Now, researchers at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan have welcomed a second manta ray bundle of joy, a female born in June 2009. The manta's mom was captured off of Okinawa about halfway through her pregnancy, giving birth at the aquarium six months later. 

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