A young stingray takes flight as his mother watches in The Amazing Flight of Little Ray book displayed at 50% of viewport width.
February 2020 by Terry Verduin


Little Ray was tired of lazing in pools,
watching fellow fish in herd-like schools.
The blue sky looked so clear and bright.
Little Ray wanted to join the birds in flight.
(The Amazing Flight of Little Ray)

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray, about flying stingrays, shows how flying fish motivate children to embrace the unknown and reach new heights, like stingrays flying with birds.

Sand Castles? A Harris Poll showed 36% of Americans believe in UFOs. Rays do somersaults, flips, rolls, spins, squiggles, twists and turns. While governments look for UFOs, fish lend fresh perspectives to flight goals.

Wanderlust? Little Ray plans to fly like a bird. Using wing-like fins, he repeatedly hurls himself from water to air. Determination, practice and outside help give confidence to overcome countless fears and false starts.

Shore Leave? Fish trajectories are range-bound. Fragile gills collapse out of water. The Amazing Flight of Little Ray meets with disruptive resistance. The experience is fittingly awkward, discomforting, exhausting and unsettling.

“Fish Out of Water”? When water-dwelling creatures shoot for the skies, they leave their environment. Rays need water for gill or spiracle oxygen intake. Lungfish have lungs and gills. They burrow during droughts.

Higher Ground? Air sacs aid bird flight. Fish do not have these air-filled lung extensions. The glide path of bony Exocoetidae, or flying fish, extends hundreds of feet. This gave rise to their in flight group name of “glide”.

Working Order? Fish and fowl share unidirectional breathing. Mammals breathe in and out through lungs. To fuel fight and flight, fish and fowl deliver a continuous flow of concentrated oxygen into their blood systems.

Cut Above? Swimming and gliding speed enhances oxygen delivery. Speed delivers a greater amount of oxygen with each breath. However, respiration in all animals is challenged by stress, overwork and contaminants.

Blue Yonder? Oxygen concentrates at water surfaces. Fish coming up and gasping for air reflect distress. Their respiratory systems are more efficient than those of mammals, rendering them more susceptible to toxic intake.

All the Frills? Feather-like gills provide broad surface areas for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Most fish have protective gill covers. These offer no barrier to harmful, dissolved toxins. Rays and sharks have none.

Sudden Flights? Before takeoff, stingrays and sharks may vomit. Stress may send them into the air element. Splashes knock off leeches, lice, parasites and worms, offering alternatives to unavailable drugs in the wild.

Stingrays Flying

Flying Shows? Stingrays flying over water make amazing spectacles. They are sleek, powerful and cunning. It should come as no surprise that vehicles, engines and controversial surveillance trackers perpetuate the stingray brand.

Electro-Receptor Organs? Stingrays have acute ampullae of Lorenzini receptor cells and canals connecting to their skin. These sensitive body parts guide travel and detect obstacles or meals along the way.

Culture Club? Fish have pectoral fins. Most fish use these fins for steering. Rays use them unlike other fish. They swim with wavy motions or flap these fins like bird wings. These movements also serve people and machines.

Round Trip? Rays do not flap their fins to fly. They push off, reach the height of momentum, then start falling. Gravity makes it hard to stay airborne. Fish musculature is designed for undulating thrust through water.

Master Stroke? The pectoral fins of angel sharks attach to the body, behind the gills, as do those on most fish. Hammerheads swim on their sides. Most sharks, electric rays and bony fish move with caudal fins, or tail fins.

Organic Matter? Stingrays are made of cartilage. Because it is flexible, it helps soften falls. It equips the star of this story to make his downturns temporary. This Fishy Fish catches lucky breaks to fall with great style.

Curves? Cartilage is not as dense as bony skeletons. Its flexibility and lighter weight assist stingray air travel. Cartilage also helps water buoyancy. Most bony fish have swim bladders. These do not intake air or extract oxygen.

Stop and Sink? Manta rays, Great White, Hammerhead, Mako and Whale Sharks must keep moving. Most fish use swim bladders for up or down movements. These gas-filled sacs extend from the digestive system.

Kitchen Secrets? Elasmobranchs have no swim bladders. To make up for the absence, some sharks store fats and oils in their livers. Rays and bottom-dwelling sharks use large, flat fins to control and maintain water buoyancy.

Lubricant? Fish liver oil is lighter than water. This substance compensates for absent swim bladders in sharks. Rays likewise lack this buoyancy feature. Flat, flexible bodies and broad fins enable them to float in air or water.

Hit Man? Most fish can soar from oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, fountains, bowls and tanks. They lack aerial control. FAOJ reports a boy's rare death from a ray's crash landing and common Stingray Envenomation of the Foot.

Sky High? Hollow bones add strength, distance and altitude to avian travel. Fish bones are not hollow. Rigid vertebral columns, streamlined bodies and wing-shaped fins improve their time airborne. Aim remains a problem.

Block Chain? Sharks cannot go backwards. It kills them. Most rays move elegantly. Electric rays are slow, awkward, flightless exceptions. Unlike people, fish may not train with a goal to compete. They work for survival.

Air Flying Fish

Idea Lab? Animals are smart about watching others and working together. Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution argued survival comes with adapting to the environment. A strong will to live gets denizens of the deep flying.

Long View? Fish see equally well in air or water. Vision directs and coordinates behaviors while swimming or flying solo or in groups. Applied focus breaks down tasks for step-by-step advancement within time or space.

Master Stroke? Flying fish have large pectoral fins, disconnected from the vertebrae. Muscles support their balancing, braking and leaping. Comparable bird forelimbs are wings, but their pectoral girdles brace against their spines.

Tail Wind? Avian tails serve many functions. Like bird tails, the caudal or tail fin is connected to the spine. It boosts flying fish propulsion, lift and maneuverability. Compared to feathered bird tails, these fins are heavy.

Whoa? Spines on fins are distinct from the spine, or vertebrae. The sharp structures present on many fishes' dorsal, pectoral, anal and pelvic fins give protection. Spines on sturgeon caudal fins harshen tail lashings.

Sheer Luck? Air has less drag than water. Fish take flight to find food or evade predators. Noise, temperature, chemistry, muddiness, filth or stench may force escape. They fly for fun, to express themselves or to show off.

Flight Caps? Any fish can jump from an uncovered tank. “Combat Aquarium Patrol” is eliminated by putting them under covers, lids or hoods. This also reduces evaporation and risks from contaminants, kids and pets.

Depth of Focus? Little Ray stays calm as he navigates the complicated emotional turn in his flight. He comes out a winner despite the superior flying skill of the seagull adversary blocking the direct path to his goals.

Small Change? Fish are maneuverable. A small change in direction can provide freedom from a trap or uncomfortable situation, making the journey worthwhile. Little Ray thinks about his actions before choosing his battles.

Amazing Flight

Concrete Dreams? The best fliers are warm-blooded. Cold-blooded Ray gets warm-blooded help from above and encouragement from shore. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department discusses Warm and Cold-Blooded Animals.

Master Class? Wing flapping provides lift for birds and bats. An abstract cited by the NCBI explains Muscle Function in Avian Flight: Achieving Power and Control. Aerial upstroke, speed and hovering are strenuous.

Under the Sun? Sun aids navigation. Bats and fish have a strong guidance sense for electric fields on land or in water. Some fish produce electricity. Others feel it. Birds orient with magnetic fields or follow stars.

Celestial Compass? Birds usually migrate at night. They cover long distances at heights ranging from 2,000-to-5,000 feet (600-to-1,500 meters). Stars offer bearings. Fish leaps rarely exceed 10 feet (3 meters).

Wavy Surface? Some fish pilot their journeys by star and moonlight. They cannot get as close to celestial bodies as birds. Orbs cast by water-surface reflections and wave movements also interfere with fish star-gazing.

Celestial Beings? The Pisces zodiac sign means fish. Nine constellations are named after birds. The Old Farmer's Almanac reports some birds reach altitudes of 21,000 feet (6,400 meters). They can see their namesakes.

Happy Daze? Goals have physical and functional limitations. They must be realistic and within the boundaries of safe, acceptable behavior. Little Ray does not push limits by trying to reach outer space, where few venture.

Playing it Cool? Little Ray takes time to reflect, calm down and get his bearings before reacting on raw emotions. While he may be adventurous and creative, he also shows restraint when his big ideas come under attack.

How Flying Fish Motivate Children

Double Take? Fish are intelligent. They perceive their environment with strong senses. Little Ray remains purposefully reactive, appropriately responsive and consciously aware of his positive and negative results.

Kick Back? Fish have feelings. Little Ray knows his Mama is worried. He hears strong beach-goer reactions. External factors enhance motivation and spark alertness. Accountability and monitoring spur progress.

Game Face? Stingrays carry little emotional baggage. They cleverly evade and outsmart other creatures. A visiting stingray vision in a dream signifies stale effort giving way to new freedom with firm resolve.

Fine and Dandy? A fish ladder helps fish get over and past dams during migrations between saltwater and freshwater to reproduce. These stairways beside dam structures aid step-by-step jumping leaps for fish, like salmon.

Blue Sky Accountability Ladder? As an example of climbing to new levels, Blue Sky Formations Limited introduces nine-year-old Vincent. He acknowledges reality, accepts responsibility and moves up with performance.

Go with the Flow? Air travels need not be self-powered. Little Ray may catch an updraft or wind stream. The albatross may hold records for energy-saving glides around the world, without constant wing flapping or rest stops.

Manual Override? Squids create water jets to rocket. Mammals, reptiles and amphibians use skin flaps. Phys.org news reports Spiders go Ballooning on Electric Fields. Crashes into plane windshields happen during these journeys.

Contributors? Winds lift animals. LOC archives Raining Frog Mysteries. Slowing winds may drop victims back into the water. Unlucky ones flop onto land. People may return these hapless organisms to their aquatic habitat.

Reach New Heights

Land or Sea? Human ancestors saw fish jumping and birds flying. Artifacts suggest early human migrations were made by walking across ice and land bridges. Primitive boats later expanded explorations over frightening waters.

Flying Serpents? The Biblical flying snake in the Book of Isaiah is grounded in fact. Mildly venomous flying snakes glide through air. Snakes also rise briefly off the ground while striking prey. Snake-like eels leap from water.

Aquaphobia? Fear of water remains common in modern times. Negative experiences or reports about getting in over one's head, shipwrecks, storms at sea or floods on land continue to distance some folks from enlightening tides.

Cast Away Fears? Science largely has debunked open-water monsters, myths and superstitions. There still remains much to learn about this under-explored environment. Pioneering individuals continue to raise awareness.

Creative Class? Human air travel history was inspired by birds. Observing nature brings new and improved products to everyday living. Life-changing actions come with positivity of purpose, rehearsal and feedback, not wings.

Flight to Remember? The following video communicates how to beat all odds. Transcript: The world helps those who try and try, to fly and fly. Illustrations and ideas are from the story, but the words are not. (34 seconds)