Thornback Ray Raja clavata

Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
The Thornback Ray is one of the most common but also most variable of the skate family native to the warm eastern Atlantic coasts from the southern Mediterranean via the Canary Islands and West Africa to southern Africa. Its preferred habitat is sandy coasts and muddy estuaries. It has sharp thorns along its lower back and upper tail.
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
Skates lay eggs (brown, rectangular "mermaids' purses"), unlike true rays which give birth to live young. Most skates, however, have a common name of "ray", such as the Thornback Ray. Most are much smaller than the true rays. (An exception to both of these is the overfished and critically endangered Common Skate, which now is by no means common and can reach 2-3 metres wide.)
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
The Thornback can grow to about a metre wide and about 1.4 metres long, but is usually less. The upper body and fins can have a pale, medium or dark brown background with multiple contrasting spots (dark on pale or light on dark) and a patterned border. The thorned tail is barred light and dark and has two small dorsal fins at the end. Skates do not have a venomous sting.
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray underside
Thornback Ray
The underside, like most rays and skates, is pale and "facelike". Prey is mainly shrimp with smaller crabs and fish.
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray buried in sand
They often hide under sandy or muddy substrate (above right shows one Thornback with dogfish swimming and one buried in sand).