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Shark ray dies five days after arriving at Newport Aquarium

11:34 AM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
  • A rare shark ray swims in the Coral Reef exhibit at the Newport Aquarium, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. One of its five shark rays died Monday.(Photo: Patrick Reddy, The Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • A shark ray swims past Newport Aquarium biologist Scott Brehob in the aquarium's new Shark Ray Bay exhibit. The aquarium lost its newest shark ray to mating injuries but still has four shark rays, the largest collection in the world.(Photo: Patrick Reddy, The Cincinnati Enquirer)
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NEWPORT, Ky. -- A 6-year-old female shark ray dies five days after calling Newport Aquarium home.

The unnamed ray shark died from internal bleeding when a male ray shark tried mating with her, said Mark Dvornak, Newport Aquarium general curator.

"This is just a very unfortunate, kind of a freakish thing," he said.

The female shark ray joined the largest exhibit in the world on July 17. The Aquarium, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, was holding a Facebook contest for her name, which was down to four names.

The Aquarium staff noticed that something was wrong with the shark Monday evening. The aquarium's veterinary team and marine biology staff immediately took her out of the exhibit, examined and treated her. Dvornak said, through an ultrasound they were able to identify the injury and bleeding.

"Mating is kind of a violent act," Dvornak said. "Everybody thinks of roses and chocolate. There is nothing romantic about it."

The shark rays mating ceremony is similar to sharks. The male will chase the female and bite down on a front fin to hold her down. However, the male shark ray missed during the ritual and bit the female in the stomach, Dvornak said.

It is not uncommon in the wild to find sharks and shark rays with scaring and bite marks, Dvornak said.

"Most of the time, the females will survive," said Dvornak. "Sharks have an amazing ability to heal."

The ray sharks come from the waters surrounding Taiwan. USA Today said that Newport Aquarium would not release the cost of the shark rays or their transport.

Biologists do not know how often the shark rays breed or of their lifespan. There has not been any shark ray pups born at the aquarium, spokeswoman Lynn Margason said.

In March, Director of Husbandry Chris Pierson said the aquarium biologist hoped that the shark rays would breed. This would allow the aquarium biologist to learn more about the breeding.

"It's really said," Margason said. "She was just an exquisite animal."

"We are Heartbroken," Newport Aquarium tweeted Tuesday about the loss of their newest shark ray.

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