Aquarium hoping for the patter of tiny wings

Joseph Bulmer

ILFRACOMBE Aquarium is hoping to hear the flap of tiny wings this autumn.

The attraction’s female small-eyed ray has started to produce eggs and if all goes well, staff hope by September they could be playing nursemaid to 15 or more baby skate.

The eggs, along with several dogfish eggs – in the distinctive egg cases known as “mermaid’s purses” – are on display to visitors in an incubation tank.

Aquarium owner Lawrence Raybone said it was still too early to tell whether the eggs were viable, but they would know for sure within the next couple of months.

The prospective parents are members of the skate family and also known as painted rays because of their distinctive brush-like markings.

The male was acquired locally as an egg before being incubated, hatched and reared at the aquarium. The female is at least six years old and came from Weymouth. She has produced 15 eggs during the past two months and if viable, they will take approximately eight months to hatch.