- 1 Defining Features
- 2 Habitat and Range
- 3 Fisheries Conservation and Concern
- 4 Closest Relatives
- 5 Example Species in Rajiformes
- 6 Example Species in the Gulf of Maine
- 7 References
These animals possess a dorsoventrally flattened body that is diamond shaped and not clearly defined from the pectoral fins or head. The pectoral fins are broad and the snout is stiff and long. The caudal fin is a small ridge on the tail and there is no anal fin.
Habitat and Range
Many species of skates are benthic, or spend their lives on the ocean floor. Some, however, are pelagic, and can be found in open waters. They are found in all the world's oceans, and a few are even found in freshwater and brackish areas. Across species, habitats range from shallow coastal waters, to the continental shelf, to the deep abyssal plains.
Fisheries Conservation and Concern
The Rajiformes are still subject to fishing pressures throughout all of its geographical range. Sharks, specifically hammerheads, are some of skates biggest predators. Its habitat along the coast makes skates an easy target for fisheries. Populations of skate are decreasing in certain regions and have become potentially vulnerable for overfishing. They are listed as a "Least Concern" according to the IUCN.
As seen on a cladogram, Rajiformes are most closely related to Myliobatiformes, or stingrays. They are next most closely related to Torpediniformes, or electric rays, and after that, Rhiniformes and Rhynchobatiformes, which are both orders of guitarfish.
Example Species in Rajiformes
Defining Features: These animals are a dark tan color with small, lighter spots all across their top.
Range & Habitat: These animals are found off the coast of southeastern Australia and Tasmania. They spend most of their time on the sandy continental shelf and upper slope. (Marine Neritic and Deep Benthic)
IUCN Concern: This species is classified as Least Concern and has a stable population. However, it is often caught by fishermen and harvesting aquatic resources is taking a toll on its habitat.
Pacific Starry Skate
Defining Features: This skate is a tan color mottled with white and dark brown spots that help it blend into the rocky landscape nearby. Their eye-spots are located between the eyes and the beginning of the tail and are orange and brown in color.
Range & Habitat: This species is located on the west coast of North America, from Baja California, Mexico, to British Colombia, Canada. They live on the continental shelf and in the subtidal zone where the floor is made up of hard substrate. (Marine Neritic and Deep Benthic)
IUCN Concern: This ray is classified as Least concern with an unknown population count. Threats to them include fishing, harvesting aquatic resources, and disturbance by humans through recreational activities.
Example Species in the Gulf of Maine
Defining Features: These animals range from a rich brown to a sandy off-white, with dark spots all over their top. They also have two pronounced white eye-spots along their back, halfway between the eyes and the beginning of the tail.
Range & Habitat: They are found along the east coast of North America from North Carolina in the United States, up to Newfoundland in Canada. They live on the ocean floor among rocks, mud, and sand in the subtidal zone and on the continental shelf. (Marine Neritic and Deep Benthic)
IUCN Concern: These skates are considered Least Concern with an increasing population. However, they are still threatened by fishing and harvesting aquatic resources.
Florida Museum: Floridamuseum.ufl.edu
IUCN Redlist: iucnredlist.org
Fish Base: fishbase.org