Monday, April 18, 2011

Beautiful Freak

So there was a post over on ReefBuilders a while back about some albino brown-banded bamboo sharks that have turned up in Denver (for a post about proper wild grey bamboo sharks see this classic from the E,W&W archive). That reminded me that I had been meaning to go photograph an albino ray which had been caught by a local fisherman and was now residing at a local public aquarium. Here he is:

albino ray2

Magnificient eh? That's a conger head coming into shot by the way. What is supercool about this is the way the lack of pigmentation really highlights the structure of the ray, specifically the rays running through the wing, the thicker central cavity with the internal organs and the structuring of the beak. You can also see the claspers that show this is a male.

albino ray

What you can't see from the pictures is what species we're dealing with. Its a Raja sp. but which we don't know. Typically it's pretty easy to tell our local species apart on pattern but obviously this guy doesn't have any. Apparently the tail spine counts and other factors that would typically allow one to key out an individual to species are also inconclusive as this specimen is either abberant in that regard too or a member of a species not typically encountered in our waters.

albino ray3

Whatever it is, it is obviously exceedingly beautiful and exceedingly rare. As Jake pointed out in his post on the bamboo sharks, you don't expect to see albino elasmobranchs. There are very few records of them (or indeed of otherwise abberant forms) - sharks and rays don't seem to do this (or if they do the resultant animals dont seem to turn up) so I feel pretty lucky this turned up pretty much on my door step to share with you. The animal is being genetically tested apparently to try to work out what it is and will remain in the aquarium pending results. Personally speaking if it were mine I'd be looking ultimately to house it in a UK public aquarium with a big ray pool so a lot more people can see it; but I guess we'll see where he ends up.

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