Friday, February 11, 2011

Big Skate

Big Skate
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Chondrichthyes
Superorder : Batoidea
Order : Rajiformes
Family : Rajidae
Genus : Raja
Species : binoculata

Length : 6ft (1.8m)
Weight : 200lbs (81kg)

IUCN Status : Near Threatened

The appropriately named Big Skate is the largest of the North American skates, cartilaginous fish that belong to the superorder that also contains Rays. They can be found off the Pacific coast running from Alaska to California, at depths of up to 400ft (120m).

The Big Skate is very flat and pointy looking, with its nose and pectoral fins all coming to a tip. They also possess a thin tail that is just about as long as the body. They have two large patches on their back that resemble eyes and which are most likely used to confuse predators. The Big Skate's actual eyes on placed on top, but its mouth and gills are found on its underside, which is the perfect position for swimming around and sucking up fish and marine invertebrates.

Big Skates are egg-layers, and produce two very large capsules that can contain up to seven eggs each. It takes a full nine months for the eggs to hatch, and will take eight years for the males to become sexually mature, and up to thirteen for females!

Skates are often taken as bycatch. Their numbers have been affected by this incidental overfishing, and it doesn't help that they have a very slow growth rate, late sexual maturity, and low reproductive rates.

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