Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fears and favorites

My number one fear is sharks (my name is Sarah and I am selachophobic) but some of my favorite marine animals are skates and rays, specifically the order Rajiformes. Imagine my surprise in finding out that Rajiformes are closely related to sharks, yeesch. Well, it's not that surprising, but the main thing that differentiates them in my mind is that most rays have weird little square mouths, not huge gaping jaws with scary knives jutting out of them. I remember being in a zoo in Ohio with my mother and seeing a tank of rays that were trained to slap one of their fins on the water. I don't know what species they were, but I think they were young and about the size of an adult's hand.

It turns out there is another genus called Mobula that have the same general shape, and there are some that leap out of the water. Read about them at The Flying Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez and don't forget to read the last page that talks about the evils of Bycatch (unwanted or unintentional catch) and how one in four marine animals caught in nets are thrown away for various reasons. Remember dolphin-safe tuna? Well there are still many other animals affected by the fishing industry, including whales, birds, turtles and even sharks. As much as I dislike and fear them, I don't think they should be killed.

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