When a ray is spotted on more than one day we give him/her a name.
THE NAMING OF RAYS: - When we began the project, we wondered how many rays we would see more than once, we numbered every sighting, but those we saw more than once we thought to use an alphabetic system. We weren’t sure we would get more than 10 or 11 (undulate rays are an endangered species), but it seemed a good idea to give them names instead. Sheilah has never quite got over listening to some fool politician tell the world that they had to find some way of making science exciting (????) so we thought to inject a modicum of humour into the names; it started with Al, Billy & Charles, then the puns started and haven’t really stopped, they are just getting more challenging to think up. Thankfully we have friends who understand our sense of humour and are always willing to contribute a name here & there.
A few themes have started showing the intellectual standard required, you might recognise that some of the Thunderbirds team have homage paid to them. We are now on our 6th time around the alphabet and even have some names in reserve. Science has always been exciting, but it’s also fun!
Some of the more notable rays and the background to their names:
Although many rays are seen more than once, often in the same place, they do not remain at a specific place and are not seen many times. The fish that has been sighted most often is Grace who has been seen on eight separate occasions.
By May 2016 we were on the second time through the alphabet with ray names when Grayce was spotted and photographed by Martin. Over the next 3 years (s)he was seen eight times which made her our most spotted undulate ray! She was seen (and photographed) by Polly in 2018 and her DNA was sampled by Sheilah also in 2018. When (s)he turned up for her seventh appearance in 2019 it was apparent that she was a he, highlighting the difficulty of determining gender on fish that take 8-years to reach maturity. Grace has now become Mr Grayce.
When rays have been sighted again, it is almost always on the same site they were originally seen on. We've recorded two exceptions, "Cathode" was first seen near Kimmeridge in August 2017 and then again at Chesil Cove in June 2018, "Lemar" was tagged as part of a CEFAS program in February 2018 near Bridport and was next seen near Anvil point in June 2018. Both fish had travelled 20-30 km including passing Portland Bill on the way.
Longest time between first and last sightings:
Rays may suddenly show up again on a site, weeks, months or years later having not been seen in the intervening period. The longest time between the first and last sighting of a ray is currently just short of seven years for "Xerrys" who has been seen 3 times, between August 2013 and August 2020.
“Xerrys” was first seen and recorded in August 2013 and not seen again until 2017. Last seen in August 2020 makes this the longest period between first and last sighting, just a few days short of seven years. He was clearly a male ray when first seen and we estimate he would be about 14 or 15 years old when seen in August 2020.
Ray names so far.
B Billy, Blanc, Brayanna, Blu, Barberray, Breynda
D Dierdray, Desiray, Dr Dray, Doggett, Diator, Dio
E Elanna, Erayc, Elfrayda, Erayn, Elviray, Emma
F Fraydo, Freya, Frankie, Freyd, Frayne, Fraynklin
G Garay, Mr Grayce, Gale, Gordon, Grayson, Grayjoy
H Harray, Higgy, Henray, Hippie, Hilaray, Honky
I Irayna, Irayea, Igor, Indigo, Irayce, Iraydescent
J Juno, Janrayce, Jerray, Jerayca, Jeff, Jinx
K Katiyanna, Katie, Kerray, Katherine, Kyrano, Kimberay
L Lorayne, Larray, Lenray, Lemar, Lorayanna, Linda
M Morayarty, Martine, Muldoon, Murray, Morayne, Margarayta
N Nead, Noray, Nerayda, Norma, Nancy, Narayta
O Orayana, Olly, Olivera, O'Reagh, Orayh
P Persephone, Polly, Popeye, Patch, Parker, Penelope
Q Queray, Que, Quiddle, Quede, Q, QT
R Rey, Raymond, Rea, Raja, Raynee, Ritchie
S Stephanie, Samantha, Stevie, Saraya, Scott, Sun
T Torvill, Teraysa, Tyson, Traycy, Tin-tin, Terray
U Uray, Ula, Ursula, Uraynia, Unity, Ulrayc
V Vaughan, Victoraya, Virgil, Vlad, Valenciennes
W Wanda, Wendy, Will, Watson, Willoughby
X X, Xerrys, Xander, Xiamen, Xalapa
Y Yveray, Yikes, Yorick, Yunshan, Yaray
Z Zacharay, Zorro, Zaphod, Zor, Zephyr
Other notable rays and the background to their names:
“Al” was first seen in July 2012 and again in 2013, shortly after starting this project. He was notable for the number of scars, some of which can be seen in the photograph; “surely these would remain at least partially distinct and distinguishable” – yeah right! Consequently, he was named after Al Pacino – Scarface; he was seen again 2 ½ years later in August 2015 when his scars had completely healed and are therefore no longer a distinguishing feature. We have since learned that scars are a common feature when rays are mating (don’t ask!); as they don’t usually start mating until they are about 8 years old that would have made Al at least fourteen years old when he was last sighted in 2018.
“Billy” was first identified as an individual in 2013 when he was seen and photographed on 3 successive occasions across a 2-month period from the end of June to the end of August.
He was named after Billy Bones from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island because of a distinctive black spot on his left wing. The spot is in the shape of a small rectangle with distinct right angular corners. It does not look natural and was first assumed to be an old wound although this has not been confirmed and we have since recorded rays with similar marks. Billy is a mature male with a wingspan (disc diameter) of almost 50-cm and an overall length of approximately 90-cm. Checking earlier records he was photographed on the same site in July 2012 and was subsequently photographed in August 2014. Hence he was in the vicinity or visited the same site over 3 consecutive years. On at least 4 of the 5 occasions Billy has been seen, he has been at the same position to within less than 20 metres. The record for the first sighting of Billy is less precise but is likely to have been in this same very close proximity.
Billy does not appear overly concerned about the presence of a diver. On each occasion it has been possible to approach and take photographs, including placing a photographic scale close by. After a few minutes the continued presence of the diver can cause him to slowly swim away, possibly settling again not too far away. He has not been seen since 2014.
Ray “Charles” was the role model used to develop the image processing sequence that allows individual rays to be identified from the patterns on the fish. He was seen and photographed twice on a single dive in September 2013. At the time, the second photograph of Charles was suspected to be of a fish seen earlier in the dive, however, conditions were not good and the resulting photographs were of poor quality. Although used to develop this process Charles has not been seen since, he is therefore the only ray to be named who has not been seen on more than one day.
“Elanna” in homage to B’elanna Torres born in 2346 on the Federation colony Kessik IV, who is, or was, or will be(?) half Klingon and half human. Spot the Klingon on the starboard bow; we wanted to reflect that in her name, how hard can it be to find a Klingon name beginning with E now we have the aid of the internet? Life is too short to trawl through the millions of pages dedicated to Klingons so we did the sensible thing and asked an 11-year-old boy to do it for us.
Ray “Alan” was captured on video by a remote camera with no divers in the water. The angle of the shot would normally preclude recognition, however, by comparing details on his pattern with rays that had been photographed in the immediate vicinity within a few weeks, we found the match. Ray Alan is named indirectly for Alan Shephard the astronaut, but more directly for Alan Tracy both continuing the Thunderbirds theme first started with ray Virgil. Alan Tracy was voiced by Ray Barrett.