A young stingray takes flight as his mother watches in The Amazing Flight of Little Ray book displayed at 50% of viewport width.
February 2019 by V. R. Duin


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 to 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 bring confidence to overcome countless fears and false starts.

Kick Back? Fish have feelings. Little Ray knows his Mama is worried. He hears strong beach-goer reactions. External factors enhance motivation and give awareness. Progress is spurred by accountability and monitoring.

Shore Leave? Fish trajectories are range-bound. Fragile gills collapse out of water. The Amazing Flight of Little Ray meets with disruptive resistance. The flight 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.

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 guide their travels by star and moonlight. They cannot get as close to the stars as birds. Orbs cast by water-surface reflections and wave movements also interfere with their star-gazing.

A Fish Constellation? Pisces is plural for fish in Latin. 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.

Stingrays Flying

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.

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

Light Weight? Cartilage is not as dense as bone skeletons. Its flexibility and lighter weight assist stingray air travel. Cartilage also helps buoy these fish in water. Unlike most fish, they have no swim bladder for this purpose.

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

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 gasping for air near the surface 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 have broad surface areas for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Some 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 airborne. Splashes knock off leeches, lice, parasites and worms. They have no access to drugs or alternative self-treatments in the wild.

Air Flying Fish

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.

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

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

Flight Caps? The need for “Combat Aquarium Patrol” is eliminated by covering them. Any fish can jump from an uncovered tank. Covers, lids or hoods also reduce evaporation and risks from contaminants, kids and pets.

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”.

Master Stroke? Flying fish have large pectoral fins. Some species have enlarged pelvic fins, disconnected from their vertebral column. Comparable bird forelimbs are wings. Birds' pectoral girdles brace against the spine.

Range of Motion? Critical to flight, additional information is in Nature Communications from Lucas, K. N. et al. for Bending rules about animal propulsion, Nat. Commun. 5:3293 doi: 10.1038/ncomms4293 (2014).

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, fins are relatively heavy.

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.

Amazing Flight

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 prey along the way.

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

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. Flight upstroke, speed and hovering are strenuous.

Sky High? Hollow bones add strength, distance and height to bird flight. Rigid vertebral columns, streamlined bodies and wing-shaped fins help fish improve aim as well as time airborne. Fish bones are not hollow.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Game Face? Stingrays carry no 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.

Reach New Heights

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.

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.

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.

Idea Lab? People 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 stingrays flying.

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)