Little Ray and Mama Ray
May 2018 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”)

In this month in which mothers are celebrated, we also celebrate mothers in this series of stingray and shark stories for children. Little Ray and his Mama Ray provide a perfect introduction into the ocean life of mother stingrays and their stingray babies.

In “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”, it is clear that without Mama Ray, there also would be no stingray and shark stories for children. Without Little Ray there would be less intrigue and less adventure to ocean life. 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. Baby sharks hatch from eggs or are born live, but they are left to fend for themselves.

Stingray babies are called “pups” and, if mother stingrays have more than one pup, they are called “litters”. Like its stingray cousin, a shark “pup” (baby) is born to ocean life ready to take care of itself. Unlike stingrays, some sharks hatch from eggs. This may be a good thing, because some mother sharks eat their babies upon birth! All stingrays are born live. Little Ray does not face any risk from his Mama Ray. Mama Ray represents the love, care and protection to which great mothers aspire.

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. This is also true for Mama Ray's cousin, a mother manta ray. Unlike mother stingrays, manta rays have no stingers for protection in ocean life. However, all rays are protective of those in their care. Some sharks band together, while others are full-time, full-spectrum predators.

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. Mama Ray has a stinger. Mama dogs have fangs. 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. Children will see hints of the motherly care and concern for their own lives in the example of Little Ray's mother. Mama Ray worries about Little Ray's youthful vulnerabilities. Little Ray would prefer to have his social problems go away. Stingrays are not mindless stinging machines.

In ocean life, there are no kittens to be protected by their mothers. Baby catfish are called “fry”, not kittens. Generally, they must fend for themselves after hatching from the thousands of eggs laid by the mother. Marine catfish are unusual in that the males carry a clutch of golf-ball sized eggs in their mouths until they hatch. Mama Catfish and the fry must be grateful to Papa for this assistance! Mama Ray does not lay eggs. Stingray babies are born live and remain under the care of their mother stingrays. Some species of sharks are born live, while others hatch from abandoned eggs.

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. The water is too cold for a Mama Ray or her babies. Some species of sharks have a low metabolic rate that may allow them to endure sparse and frigid climates throughout long lives. Mothers typically want to live where it is best for their children.

Stingray babies are born live from eggs that hatch within the mama ray. One or more young stingrays are born to mother stingrays each year. The number of babies in the “litter” can be from one to twelve, depending upon the size of the mother stingray. Sharks can have from one to one hundred babies. More babies are born outside the bodies of egg-laying sharks than are carried inside the bodies of mother sharks for live births. In The Amazing Flight of Little Ray, Mama Ray has only one stingray baby. The illustrations show her to be small and young. The story proves this mother stingray to be wise about ocean life. Mothers everywhere are expected to know what is best for their children.

Since stingrays live for fifteen to twenty-five years, stingray babies take a while to reach full maturity. Some species of sharks do not start making babies until they are well past the average mother stingray's average life span. 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. All mothers generally want the best for their children. Mother sharks tend to lack a mothering instinct.

Like the little pet fish in an aquarium, a fish bowl 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. For shark babies, whether they are airborne or the in water, their own mothers can be the predators. However, in “The Amazing Flight of Little Ray”, to not discourage Little Ray's achievement, Mama Ray allowed her son to “test his wings”. Learning is an important part of ocean life, just as it is for children on land.

We do not know Mama Ray's reaction after Little Ray returned to the sea “on a wing and a prayer”. However, his friends are forever pleased with his safe return to his welcoming sea. Moreover, it should be clear why Little Ray loves his Mama Ray and his ocean life. Mama Ray helps everyone understand that mother stingrays take good care of their stingray babies so they can safely live their lives. Around their mothers, shark babies have to be fast and lucky. Good mothers everywhere have an example in Mama Ray. Children are sure to recognize the importance of the mothers in their lives, too.

Mother Stingrays

  • 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.