Cartilaginous Fish at SeaWorld

Daniel (3 1/2) could spend hours in the Manta Aquarium. He’s fascinated by their flight-like swimming abilities. “Look, there goes a cow nose!” he shouts, as a stingray glides by. (He’s learned about 4 or 5 varieties of rays, which for 3 years old is pretty good in my opinion.)

I learned recently (or I should say re-learned, as some Marine Biology class from my past most likely covered) that rays, skates, and sharks are closely related. (Don’t make me look up the Latin!) They’re “cartilaginous” fish. Basically, they’re the fish with no bones. And while sharks and rays swim and breathe differently, they are kissin’ cousins.

The Guitarfish is a type of ray. One look at the creature, and you’ll see why the “guitar”-part of its moniker fits perfectly. If you lifted it up from its narrow tail, you’d want to “strum” the flat part of its body between the pectoral fins. Do NOT try this at home! Actually, those wide wing-like pectoral fins help amateurs like myself tell them apart. Sharks use their mid-sized pectoral fins to steer them like a joystick… up, down, left, right. Rays do a sort of “breast stroke”, flying through the waters. Flutter. Flutter.

As we sit at the aquarium window’s edge, my family is filled with wonder, again, at these magnificent creatures. “Look! Here comes the Guitarfish,” Daniel squeals. The adults nearby look down at him.

“Isn’t that a shark?” one man asks.

“Nooooooo,” he assures them. And then, “See that one? That one there? It’s a Guitarfish. And THAT is a cow nose,” he adds as his favorite ray whooshes by.

The adult just shakes his head. “How does this toddler know this?” he probably wonders.

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