GATLINBURG (WATE) -- Two male spotted eagle rays born last fall at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg may be among fewer than 10 captive born in the world.
Spotted eagle rays aren't as common as other ray species in public aquariums.
There are reportedly less than 15 aquariums in the world that exhibit the species, which is found in tropical and temperate seas.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies has five spotted eagle rays and its sister facility, Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, S.C., has three.
The two male pups were born in the Ray Bay exhibit on Sept. 27, 2008.
They were moved immediately to the marine science building at the aquarium and cared for by marine biologists.
The rays were trained to eat from biologists' hands to ensure they became ready for their new environment, where they compete for food with hundreds of coral reef fishes.
The pups were introduced into the Coral Reef exhibit on December 9.
Each pup weighed less than three pounds at birth and was less than 16 inches across.
Adult spotted eagle rays can grow to a 10-foot disc width and weigh up to 500 pounds.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the spotted eagle ray as near threatened. That means the species is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.