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Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Mall’s male stingray becoming too much a ladies man

July 16, 2000

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— Big Boy is getting the stingray's equivalent of a cold shower.

After fathering 13 baby stingrays with four females in less than a year, Big Boy's keepers at the Mall of America's Underwater Adventures aquarium have separated their only adult male stingray from his harem.

"We thought, 'Enough is enough. We've got to get him out of there,"' said Cindy Grzanowski, the aquarium's marketing director.

"We just didn't expect that many."

Seven of the stingray puppies arrived in litters delivered between June 28 and July 5. And aquarium staffers aren't ruling out the possibility that some of the other five adult female stingrays are pregnant, too.

A bit overwhelmed with the stingray baby boom, staffers decided to move Big Boy to a separate tank with some of his children, but no other adult females.

Aquarium staffers had actually wondered whether Big Boy would ever be a father. Big Boy had lived with two female stingrays since the aquarium opened in 1996 but never had offspring until this year.

Staffers thought the problem might have been a painful encounter with a shark. Male stingrays have a pair of sex organs called claspers. A nurse shark at the aquarium badly injured one of Big Boy's claspers, and it had to be amputated, Grzanowski said.

"Bit him, basically. Bit him in a place where you'd say, 'Ow,"' she said.

One seems to be enough.

Big Boy started churning up the water after the aquarium acquired six female stingrays last summer. Gestation takes about six months, and two gave birth in January. One of them got pregnant again and gave birth this summer.

Grzanowski isn't sure why Big Boy is such a stud. He's a bit of a runt --only about 2 1/2 feet in diameter compared with up to 5 feet across for some of his consorts. Until Thursday, in fact, his official name was Little Boy.

His name was changed to honor his procreative prowess, Grzanowski said.

Big Boy will be kept sequestered and celibate until at least the beginning of next year, she said, maybe longer if more pregnancies turn up.

Some his children are being placed in a "petting pool" in the aquarium's new Starfish Beach exhibit.

Others might be traded for other animals.

"It's a good problem," Grzanowski said.

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