A stingray in the desert might seem as odd as a saguaro under the sea. But there's a good reason that Tucson's Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum added a touch tank stocked with the aquatic animals.
The Gulf of California (aka Sea of Cortez) is a key part of the Sonoran Desert, and it's home to dolphins, whales, and so many species of fish that Jacques Cousteau dubbed it "the world's aquarium." Hence, the Stingray Touch exhibit helps remind desert dwelling visitors of the importance of conserving the world's oceans.
The Atlantic cownose rays in the pool are brown on top and white on the bottom, with googly eyes. Visitors can dip their hands into the water as the good-natured creatures glide by. Some say that the animals' skin feels like wet velvet; others compare it to peeled mango. For an extra fee, you can feed the rays by holding a snack of shrimp and smelt underwater. "The stingrays will come over and suck the food out of your hand," says Kat Rumbley, the museum's spokesperson.