Longnose Skate - Raia rhina

Longnose Skate - Raia rhina

View all Longnose Skate images in the Pacific Marine Index

The Longnose Skate (Raia rhina) is a sharp-nosed bottom dwelling skate. Its name is derived from the genus Raja, in Latin meaning skate, and the species name rhina is derived from the Greek "rhinos" meaning nose.

Longnose Skates are limited to the Eastern Pacific Ocean with a distribution range from Navarin Canyon in the Bering Sea and Unalaska Island, Alaska, to Cedros Island, Baja California, Mexico.

These skates are found residing on the sea floor, and can be found at depths ranging from 82- 2,215 feet (25-675 m). As bottom dwellers, these skates are often observed partially, or entirely buried in sand and silt bottoms with its eyes protruding above the surface. The coloration of this skate is used to camouflage with the bottom substrate. To move, the Longnose Skate undulates the pectoral fins in a graceful sweeping motion, appearing to fly rather than swim through the water.

The body of the Longnose Skate is flattened and not clearly defined from the pectoral fins or head. The anterior margin of the disk (body) is strongly concave and the pectoral fins are broad. The snout is stiff, long, and acutely pointed giving this species it’s name, and the mouth is directed downward. The five gill slits are located ventrally and spiracles are large and behind the eyes on the dorsal surface. The small dorsal fins are closely spaced and located on the tail.

The Longnose Skate is similar in appearance to the California skate (Raja inornata). However, the California skate can be distinguished by rounded pectoral fin tips and it is a shallow water species, only very rarely occurring in water deeper than 40 feet (12.2 m). Another skate similar in appearance to the Longnose Skate is the Big Skate (Raja binoculata). The snout of the big skate is less pronounced and the anterior margins of the pectoral fins are less concave than the Longnose Skate. Colouration patterns also differ, with the Big Skate having large dark spots on the pectoral fins that lack pale centers in contrast to the Longnose Skate that has spots with pale centers and borders.

The maximum reported size of the Longnose Skate is 4.6 feet (140 cm) total length with individuals averaging 2-3 feet (.6-.9 m) in length. Males are generally much smaller than females. The life span of this species is currently unknown, although individuals up to 13 years of age have been reported.

The Longnose Skate feeds on small fishes and invertebrates including crustaceans, worms and mollusks. Skates feed by pouncing on top of their prey, and trapping it against the sea floor.

Skates are oviparous, or egg laying, animals. After fertilization, the female forms a tough, permeable egg case that surrounds the egg, and after a period of several months, the female deposits the egg on the sea floor. The egg case is oblong with hook-like horns on each corner. The embryo continues to develop with nourishment provided by a yolk, and when the yolk is depleted a few months later, the embryo exits the egg case. Upon hatching, the young skate is similar in appearance (other than size) to an adult Longnose Skate.

The Longnose Skate is of only minor importance to commercial fisheries. However, it is sometimes taken incidentally as by-catch primarily by bottom trawlers in the waters off Northern and Central California. The pectoral fins are marketed as "skate wings" and sometimes as scallops (punched from the pectoral fins), although the flesh of skates is not highly regarded for human consumption. The Longnose Skate is not listed as endangered or vulnerable within the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Photographing one of these rarely seen skates at diveable depths is quite an experience. These skates tend to be very docile when approached by divers and will pose quite nicely if left untouched.