TOKYO – What is believed to be the first giant manta ray born in captivity has arrived at a southern Japanese aquarium, the facility said Sunday.
The baby manta, a female, was born late Saturday in a huge fish tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, more than a year after its parents mated, the aquarium said in a statement posted Sunday on its Web site.
In a video capturing the birth, the baby manta, rolled up like a tube, came sliding out of the mother manta, then quickly spread its fins and began swimming around.
The scene, recorded by the aquarium, was broadcast by national broadcaster NHK on Sunday.
The event marks the first birth of a manta in captivity, according to the aquarium, which started raising manta rays in 1988.
Noriyasu Suzuki, an official at the Izu-Mito Sea Paradise commercial aqua zoo in western Japan, said he thought the birth in captivity could be a world first.
"I've never heard of any other case before," he said. "Aquariums that raise manta rays are rare to begin with ... because they get so big."
According to the aquarium, the newborn manta was more than six feet wide.
The mother manta, which was brought to the aquarium in 1998 after hitting a fishnet off the southern island of Okinawa, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo, mated with its partner on June 8, 2006, and was pregnant with the baby for 374 days, according to the statement.
Aquarium official Minoru Toda said little has been known about the life of manta rays, and the record of pregnancy and the birth would provide valuable scientific data to the studies of the species.
"We unfolded some of the mysteries about the life of manta rays, including the length of their pregnancy," Toda said. "Now we have to make sure the baby grows in good health."