Little Ray and Mama Ray
May 2017 by V. R. Duin

MAMA RAY

Knowing Little Ray to be brave and young,
Mama Ray managed to hold her tongue.
After all, her boy would never ever know
What he could do without giving things a go.
( “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”)

Little Ray and his Mama Ray, from a series of stingray and shark stories for children, provide a perfect introduction into the ocean life of mother stingrays and their stingray babies.

Without Mama Ray, there would be less intrigue and less adventure to Little Ray's ocean life. There also would be no stingray and shark stories for children. There could be no stingray babies without mother stingrays. After giving live birth to them, a mother stingray provides for her babies' defense while they grow. Stingray babies are called “pups” and they are born in “litters”. Like its stingray cousin, a shark “pup” (baby) is born ready to take care of itself. This is a good thing, because the mother shark might eat it! Little Ray does not face this risk from his Mama Ray.

On land or in water, it is generally unsafe to get between a nurturing mother and her baby. To protect their calves, cows shove, push and butt intruders with their heads. Mother whales use these same tactics to protect their calves. Size offers a huge advantage for a mother whale. Like mama dogs, Little Ray's Mama Ray will charge at an intruder. Both mothers have additional natural weapons with which to defend their pups. An unwise position in ocean life might get an intruder eaten by a mother shark, before she eats her shark pup. Mother stingrays do not eat their stingray babies.

In ocean life, there are no kittens to be protected by their mothers. Baby catfish are called “fry”, not kittens. They must fend for themselves after hatching from the thousands of eggs laid by the mother. The best-known cubs in the sea are those of polar bears. These bears are at the top of the food chain and at the top of the world in their frigid climes. Their only predators are armed humans. No other creature dares walk or swim among mama bears, be these with or without babies. Mother stingrays, with or without their stingray babies, do not venture into polar bear country. It is too cold for them.

Stingray babies are born live from eggs that hatch within the mama ray. One or more young stingrays are born to a mother stingray each year. The number of babies in the “litter” can be from one to twelve, depending upon the size of the mother stingray. Since stingrays live for fifteen to twenty-five years, stingray babies take a while to reach full maturity. Although newborn stingrays swim as well as the mother stingrays, their venomous stinging tails are small and undeveloped. Until they are about three years old, the mother stingray protects her babies while they practice hunting for their own food. Thanks to Mama Ray, ocean life is pretty good for Little Ray.

Like the little pet fish in an aquarium or a fish pond, stingray babies can jump out of the water. Mother stingrays prefer their babies spend time hunting for food and hiding from predators, rather than trying to fly like birds. However, in “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”, to not discourage Little Ray's achievement, Mama Ray allowed her son to “test his wings”. We do not know Mama Ray's reaction, after Little Ray returned to the sea “on a wing and a prayer”. However, it should be clear why Little Ray loves his Mama Ray and his ocean life! Mama Ray also helps Little Ray answer this commonly asked question: How Do Stingrays Take Care of Their Young?

3 comments

  • Mama Ray admin says:

    A Mama Ray does not abandon her babies.

  • Stingray babies admin says:

    Children also learn about the natural defenses of stingray babies from Little Ray's ocean life stories.

    • Ocean Lifeadmin says:

      In discussions of ocean life, it is important to include mother stingrays, since they are protective of their babies.