- Flat-bodied fish, around 5 and a half feet long
- Dullish gray color to blend in with the sand
- They have long tails that make them resemble sharks more than rays. Their tails have two caudal (tail) fins of equal size
- Thorns (enlarged denticles or scales) extending in single line down center of back and tail
- Northern California to Baja California, Mexico and around to Gulf of California
- Live in soft sandy or muddy bottoms, often near rocky reefs
- Can live in water up to 39 feet deep
- Their nursery and spawning grounds are in bays in Southern California and Baja California
- Females arrive in bays in spring, stay through early summer when give birth to live pups
- Right after females give birth, males arrive to mate via internal fertilization, and then both males and females leave the area
- Each embryo receives nutrition from a yolk sac before a live birth
- A female can give birth to 6-28 pups at once!
- There is no parental care after birth
- Bottom feeders; they eat benthic fishes, shrimp, worms, and crabs
- Only known predators are large coastal sharks and California sea lions
- Shovelnose guitarfish can pump water over their gills, so they are able to remain completely motionless.
- Guitarfishes are actually skates, not stingrays. They do not have barbs or stingers, and are harmless to humans.
- They live to be about 11-16 years old.
- Shovelnose guitarfish can be eaten as seafood, often as “shark steaks.”
- Shovelnose guitarfish have been around for 100 million years.
- Their numbers are decreasing, and some scientists worry they may be endangered; we need to protect all sharks and ray species!
Sources: Oceana; California Sea Grant; Monterey Bay Aquarium
Photo: David R. Andrew
Want to see a shovelnose guitarfish in person? Visit Shark Shores at Birch Aquarium or the Living Coast Discovery Center!