Sometimes a fish with an interesting appearance can get an interesting name. This week’s featured creature has a name that is pretty rock-n-roll. The Shovelnose Guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus) gets its name from the long shovel-like snout and guitar shape of its body. Their sandy coloration allows them to burrow under the substrate leaving only their eyes visible to catch unsuspecting prey.
Believe it or not, Guitarfish have been around for almost 100 million years! They are an evolutionary blend of ray and shark attributes. You will find these amazing ancient creatures from San Francisco Bay to the Gulf of California.
The guitarfish mouth is located on the underside of the head, allowing them to feed on benthic organisms like crabs and clams. Like many chondrichthyes (animals that have cartilage skeletons instead of bony ones; i.e. sharks, rays and skates), these fish have spiracles, on top of their body to pass water into and through their gills which are located near the mouth.
These species are approaching “threatened” status due to several human activity-related causes. They are often the target of commercial fishing industries in Baja and the Gulf of California. Even when they are not being specifically fished, Guitarfish are still threatened by human fishing practices. These fish get caught in the bycatch of other commercial fishers throughout their habitat range. Aside from fishing, other stresses on these magnificent creatures include pollution runoff and dredging that causes disruption and loss of habitats.
If you want a chance to encounter these glorious, yet harmless creatures, learn more about attending one of Marine Science Institute’s Discovery Ecotours!
Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography: Marine Science Institute Library