Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baby Thornback Ray Smiles Back

Get a load of this little cutie!

(click image to enlarge --> )

With its odd smile and translucent body this creature could be mistaken for a young cousin of one of Doctor Who's adversaries.

In fact it is the underside of a young thornback ray, pushing itself up the inside of an aquarium.

What appear to be eyes are gill slits, part of the animal's mechanism for breathing. Its real eyes are on top of its body.

Children visiting the Blue Reef Aquarium at Southsea, Hampshire, have remarked on the 5in fish's resemblance to The Last Human, the Doctor Who creature (inset) given voice by Zoe Wanamaker.

The month-old ray is one of 12 hatched from eggs known as "mermaid's purses" as part of a breeding programme.

"Their faces are very distinctive, especially the apparent smile," said a Blue Reef spokesman.

Thornbacks are the most common ray in British waters and can grow up to 4ft in length. Their backs are covered with spines.

The baby rays were all born as part of a captive breeding programme at the aquarium.

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