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.

Flight Observations?

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, rays lend fresh perspectives to flight goals.

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

“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, so they can burrow during droughts.

Shore Leave? Fish trajectories are range-bound. Fragile gills collapse out of water. Fish gills are designed to work in water. Out of water, they dry out and cannot perform oxygen exchanges. Prompt return to water restores breathing.

Wet World? A human under water can sense the discomfort of a fish in air. The Amazing Flight of Little Ray meets with disruptive resistance. The experience is fittingly awkward, discomforting, exhausting and unsettling.

Sudden Flights? Before takeoff, stingrays and sharks may vomit. Stress may send them into the air. Return-to-water 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? Rays have broad pectoral fins. Most fish use these fins for steering. Rays move unlike most fish. They swim with wavy motions or flap these fins like bird wings. These movements also serve people and machines.

Star Power? Fin shape determines speed and style of water locomotion. Wing-like pectoral fins facilitate the ray's swimming and soaring style. Stingrays are not powered by the tail fin of their shark cousins.

Round Trip? No fin movements propel airborne rays. 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 in water.

Afraid of Heights?

The Slow Lane? Greenland Sharks live in cold waters. Slow metabolisms makes them slow swimmers. Like flightless birds, they hang low and hold their ground. They cannot pick up enough speed to take to the air.

Non-swimmers? Seahorses, puffer fish, frogfish, and batfish do little swimming. The batfish is more likely to use its pectoral fins to walk across the ocean floor than to swim. Poor swimmers are unlikely fliers.

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.

Boosters? Generally a larger tail area gives greater thrust. Fast fish have longer lobes on their caudal fins. The side-to-side or up-and-down pectoral fin movements typically enhance swimming speed and propulsion.

Master High Divers? Human divers from high boards or platforms reach high speeds before landing. They face a serious risk of impact injury. Stingrays make similar moves through the air. They cannot land feet first.

Soft Landings?

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

Organic Matter? Stingrays have cartilage, not bone. This flexible material 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 to maintain water buoyancy and facilitate the elastic movements required for swimming.

Solo Acts? Because stingrays and sharks lack rib cages, beach landings are likely to result in crushed internal organs. Without these strong, protective structures for vital organs, their own weight will snuff out their lives.

Lubricant? Fish liver oil is lighter than water. In sharks and rays, this substance provides buoyancy. Rays and bottom-dwelling sharks have flat, flexible bodies and broad fins to glide through air or water.

Cut Above? Swimming and air-propulsion efforts require oxygen delivery. Speed delivers a greater amount of oxygen with each breath. However, the breathing of all animals is challenged by stress, overwork and contaminants.

Other Air-Flying Fish?

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

Whoa? Spines on fish 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.

Flight Caps? Most 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.

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.

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

Flying Fowl?

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).

Master Class? Wing flapping provides lift for birds and bats. Aerial upstroke, speed and hovering are strenuous. Bats and many birds can swim. Unable to breathe, they hold their breath while under the water.

Working Order? Fish and fowl share unidirectional respiration. Mammals breathe in and out with lungs. Within their water or air element, fish and fowl deliver a continuous flow of concentrated oxygen into their blood systems.

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

Tail Wind? Avian tails serve many functions. Like bird tails, a fish's 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.

Sky High? Hollow bones add control, strength, distance and altitude to avian travel. Aim troubles fish, not fowl. Fish bones are solid. Rigid vertebral columns, streamlined bodies and wing-shaped fins help fish go airborne.

Hot, Hot, Cold?

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 Beings? One 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.

Concrete Dreams? The best fliers are warm-blooded. Cold-blooded Ray gets warm-blooded help from above and encouragement from shore. The opah is known to be a warm-blooded fish, but it is not known for flying.

Ectotherm? This is the scientific term for a cold-blooded animal. The regulation of body temperature of these animals depends upon outside factors such as sunlight or water temperature. Food is not required to generate heat.

Downside? Ectotherms tend to slow down when their temperature drops due to environmental changes. Basking in the sun or going into torpor makes these creatures vulnerable to predation.

Endotherm? These animals use food to generated heat and internally maintain their body temperatures. This requires a lot of food. Birds and mammals, including people, are Endothermic.

Sky High?

Genius? Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Tree-Climbing Fish? Mudskippers largely live out of water. Not only can they walk on land, but the slender mudskipper is able to climb up trees and rocks while hunting for food or perfect spots to sunbathe.

Waterfalls? Goby fish can climb 300-foot waterfalls. Koi, salmon and carp also are known to forge waterfalls. Should they fall over high falls, fish are able to withstand the pressure and fall with style.

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.

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.

Reach New Heights?

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.

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 Plan?

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.

Wanderlust? Little Ray plans to fly like a bird. Using wing-like fins, he repeatedly hurls himself into the air. Determination, practice and outside support bring him 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 spark alertness. Accountability and monitoring spur progress.

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 make a rare venture into outer space.

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

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:

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

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 aquatic creatures back into water. Unlucky ones may hit land. People may return these hapless organisms to their habitat.

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

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)