A sea life centre in Loch Lomond is to breed up to 23 species of sharks and rays – including Scotland’s first shoal of a rare stingray with a nose that resembles a cow’s.
The cownose rays, native to the western Atlantic, will arrive at the Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium next month.
So named because their nose resembles those of cows seen from above – the diamond-shaped species grows rapidly up to nearly a metre wide and they have a venomous stinger on their tails.
The centre at Balloch, Dunbartonshire, will initially house five of the fish in a newly developed 25ft circular tropical tank.
A nursery to allow visitors to view recently-hatched sharks and rays will also be added, along with a display of marine life in Scotland’s lochs highlighting species found in different freshwater and sea lochs.
Curator Mark Hind said: “The cownose stingrays will be a fantastic addition. They swim in formation like an underwater aerobatics team, and are amazing to watch as they appear to flap their wings and fly under water.
“They are fairly chilled out but they have a spine on their tails with a serrated edge on the outside of the sting, which is like a harpoon. It is a defence mechanism, but if you are stung it can cause excruciating pain.
“Some aquariums have been known to remove the barbs, but we won’t do that as it’s unethical and not good for them. We will work around them.
“They are a very strange looking species and people will be able to get up close, without being able to touch. We plan to breed them for the first time, along with our other rays and sharks.”
The Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium is investing £150,000 to breed up to 23 species of sharks and rays. New species will include a breeding pair of epaulette sharks and an eagle ray.
Staff are transforming six display tanks and rock pools from native to tropical to accommodate the new fish, and more than 200 assorted colourful shoaling species.
Meanwhile, a new nursery, dedicated to hatching and rearing young sharks and rays is also planned to allow views of the sea creatures during their earliest stages of development.