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White-spotted Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis)

White-spotted Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2014 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Rajiformes
Family: Rhinobatidae, subfamily: Rhynchobatinae.
Genus: Rhynchobatus
Species: djiddensis
Taxonomic name: Rhynchobatus djiddensis
Other Common Names: Giant Guitarfish, Giant Sandshark, Guitarfish, Guitar Fish, Sand Shark, Shark-ray, Spotted Guitarfish, White-spotted Shovelnose Ray, White-spotted Wedgefish, Whitespot Giant Guitarfish.

Sharkfin Guitarfish are rays with two tall dorsal fins and a large scythe-like tail. Swimmers and divers often mistake them for sharks due to their fins, swimming motion and large size. There are two sharkfin guitarfish in Australian waters; both feed on crabs and shelled invertebrates.

The White-spotted Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) is often found resting on the seabed during the day, propped up on its pectoral fins as it slowly pumps water over its gills. It can grow 3 m long and to a weight of well over 200 kg. Despite its large size, this harmless animal can be safely and closely approached by divers and snorkelers.

The White-spotted Guitarfish is common in the tropical north but sightings have been made of large adults in southern waters, too. The young are pale grey to yellow-brown in colour, with distinctive white spots along the sides and back between each eye and the first dorsal fin. They also have a large dark spot just above the pectoral fins which becomes indistinct or disappears at maturity. Large adults become a darker grey or almost black with fewer spots.

The less common Shark Ray or Bowmouth Guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma), which also lives in tropical waters, has a unique curved snout, a flattened head rising to a high-arched back studded with blunt thorns and two tall dorsal fins. Its colour varies from brown to grey, often with a beautiful bluish hue, and light spots scattered over the body starting from behind the head and covering all dorsal and tail surfaces.

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