Featured Elasmobranch – California skate

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Featured Elasmobranch – California skate

Raja inornata

January 2010

California Skate

Raja inornata (Jordan & Gilbert, 1880)

Family Rajiidae (hardnose skates)

Identification: A hardnose skate with a disc width slightly wider than long, moderately rounded apices, and an acutely pointed snout. The olive brown dorsal surface has small, numerous, scattered prickles, while the lighter colored ventral surface is smooth. The dorsal surface may have darker mottling and eyespots. The disc surface has between 0-7 nuchal thorns and 10-66 median tail thorns, flanked on either side by smaller thornlets, and an interdorsal thorn between two similar sized dorsal fins.

Size: A moderate-sized species with females reaching a maximum total length of 76 cm and males at about 60 cm. Size at birth is about 15 cm.

Distribution: This species ranges from the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Washington to central Baja California. A separate disjunct population occurs within the Gulf of California.

Habitat: A common nearshore species found on soft bottoms at depths of 17 to 671 m.

Biology: Oviparous, with females maturing at about 52 cm TL and males at about 52 cm TL. Egg cases appear to be produced year-round in central California. The egg cases are small, and the surface finely striated without fibrous coverings, and very smooth to the touch. It is known to feed on small benthic invertebrates including polychaete worms and shrimp.

General interest: This is a commercially important species usually taken as by-catch in other fisheries.

By David A. Ebert

Pacific Shark Research Center

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

8272 Moss Landing Road

Moss Landing, CA 95039

debert@mlml.calstate.edu