“But wait! Those aren’t rays! The word ‘fish’ is right in their name!”
The guitarfish are a family, Rhinobatidae, of rays. The name is Greek; rhinos= nose and batis, -idos= a ray. These peculiar animals look like a mash up of shark and ray, with the flattened body of a ray but with distinct sharky features. The range of the various species in the Rhinobatidae family varies from tropical, subtropical and temperate waters, as they are pretty cosmopolitan. They can be found in fresh, brackish and marine environments, and also travel in schools, a ray-like characteristic.
- 4 Genera, ~ 45-46 species
- Aptychotrema: 4 species
- Rhinobatos: 5 subgenera, 33-34 species (Subgenera: Rhinobatos: 10 Spp; Glaucostegus: 12-13 Spp.; Acroteriobatus: 7. Species: Scobatus: 2 species; Platypornax: 1 species)
- Trygonorrhina: 2 species
- Zapteryx: 3 species
These animals were first seen in upper Jurassic time period, with the “poster child” of guitarfish being the shovelnose guitarfish.
We want the weird!
We want the creepy!
Picture: A. Reitsma, Aquarium of the Pacific
The bowmouth guitarfish, also called the "shark ray" or "mud skate," is a species of ray and member of the family Rhinidae. Because it seems like a stingray and shark got together for a romantic evening together somewhere in their evolutionary paths and created the bowmouth, it is considered by some scientists to be ‘the missing link’ between these two different species due to having characteristics found on both animals.
The guitarfish is the one on the right, correct? Because it’s surrounded by fish and underwater?
Oh my god, what is that?
You wanted freaky, my friends, and those teeth are mighty freaky.
Bowmouth guitarfish have a few favorites: crustaceans and mollusks. These… interesting… teeth are flat and heavily ridged, allowing for easy crushing of prey. Since their eyes are on top of their head, they utilize their sense of smell to sniff out potential meal, restraining it with its head and giving the animal no escape… but into their mouth.
Speaking of noteworthy characteristics, these animals go through color changes as they age. Junior bowmouths are brown with pale spots and black bars behind the eyes. Adults go through a dark phase- literally. They’re a black/charcoal color, with small pale spots. The bars fade as time goes on. Some adults decide that dark blue is the new black and opt for that color scheme instead. The ventral side stays a creamy color throughout the animal’s life.
Photo via: newportaquarium.com
Not that I would want to get headbutted by a spiny fish. Not when these guitarfish can get quite big - almost 10 ft long- making it hard to play them.
Still no love for the guitar puns?
Okay, I’ll show myself out.
“I'm interested in why Shovelnose Guitarfish seem to purposely position themselves directly under my foot when I jump off my board surfing so their wriggling freaks the hell out of me.
They be all like "Aye, here comes SourCreamWater again. Quick, lets make him think he's about to get stung in the ankle again. His girly scream gets me everytime. Har Har."
Seriously though, great info. Thanks.”
I would have done this article about shovelnose guitarfish, but I’m sure bowmouth are just as troll-like, if not more with those mighty spines.