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Spotted eagle ray pup born at aquarium in Virginia Beach

The Virginia Aquarium welcomed the newborn ray on July 20. It said it planned to have a naming contest for the pup.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Staff members at the Virginia Aquarium said that the birth of a spotted eagle ray at the aquarium marked a milestone for it.

Prior to the pup's birth on July 20, spotted eagle ray pups were born at only nine other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions worldwide. 

The pup was born to mother, Sadana, and the aquarium said it planned to announce the sex of the pup in the coming weeks. It also said it would hold a naming contest.

People at the Virginia Aquarium said that spotted eagle rays are self-sufficient at birth and don't need parental care. Tuesday, the pup was in an off-exhibit quarantine area where staff members were able to monitor the diet, behavior, and welfare of the animal. 

The aquarium's veterinary and animal care teams were providing the pup with additional nutritional support as it gets better at eating on its own.

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Sadana also delivered a nonviable pup shortly before the live pup. Staff members at the aquarium said it's not uncommon for sharks and rays to be pregnant with multiple pups but have fewer remain viable through birth. They added that spotted eagle ray reproduction is exceedingly rare, and the typical gestation period can be from six to 13 months.

The aquarium team collaborated with other facilities from the beginning. Spotted eagle rays are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are included in a Species Survival Plan through AZA.

The aquarium didn't have any immediate plans to move the pup into the larger exhibit. It said it would share updates, including some on its social media pages/accounts.

The Virginia Aquarium is open to the public, but there are changes in place because of coronavirus.

RELATED: COVID-19 safety changes at the Virginia Aquarium