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Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes: a guide to species identification

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Wedgefishes and
Giant Guitarfishes
Wedgefishes and
Giant Guitarfishes
A Guide to Species Identification
Rima W. Jabado
Published by: Wildlife Conservation Society, 2019
Citation: Jabado RW. 2019. Wedgefishes and Giant Guitarfishes: A Guide to Species Identification. Wildlife Conservation
Society, New York, United States. 30 pp
Illustrations: © Marc Dando - Wild Nature Press
Cover photo: © Guy Stevens -- Manta Trust -- Bottlenose Wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae), Maldives.
All material appearing in this publication is copyrighted and may be reproduced only with permission.
What are ‘shark-like rays’?
The term ‘shark-like rays’ refers to 63 species from five families in the order Rhinopristiformes: the sawfishes (Pristidae),
wedgefishes (Rhinidae), giant guitarfishes (Glaucostegidae), guitarfishes (Rhinobatidae), and banjo rays (Trygonorrhini-
dae). Their flattened body is perfectly adapted for life on the seabed, either swimming close to the bottom or resting and
lying concealed within the sediments. All species are characterized by a life-history of slow growth, late maturity, and low
fecundity, making them extremely susceptible to population decline from overexploitation. In fact, except for the banjo rays,
the remaining four families are considered amongst the top shark and ray families most at risk of extinction. Specifically, all
but one species of sawfishes, wedgefishes, and giant guitarfishes that have been assessed on the International Union for
the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species are considered threatened (Critically Endangered).
Despite this elevated extinction risk, little to almost no management has been put in place for these species.
Schematic chondrichthyan phylogenetic tree
representing the relationship among sharks,
rays, and chimaeras, and highlighting the
order Rhinopristiformes which includes the
wedgefishes (Rhinidae) and giant guitarfishes
Threats and population declines
Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are shallow-water inshore and coastal species with much of their distributional range
overlapping with areas of high fishing pressure on the continental shelf. They are susceptible to capture in commercial and
artisanal fisheries using various types of gears including nets, trawls, longlines, and handlines. Species are either targeted
or retained when caught as bycatch, with the primary driver for retention being their fins. Indeed, while their meat is often
consumed locally, unprocessed and processed fins enter the international shark fin trade and are considered the most
valuable on the market due to their high ceratotrichia content (‘fin needles’ used in shark fin soup). Due to their quality and
texture, dried fins labelled as Qun chi (meaning ‘king of shark fins’ in Cantonese), can be sold for up to USD$964/kg in
Hong Kong, one of the world’s most important trade hubs and consumer markets for shark fins.
Currently, little is known at the species-specific level on wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes. Much of the available literature is
incomplete with often inaccurate information due to frequent species misidentification and limited research effort. However,
the available family-level catch and landings data from across their range in the Indo-Pacific and West Africa suggest severe
population declines and localized extinctions highlighting the need for immediate conservation measures. For example,
a recent assessment of the conservation status of sharks and rays in the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters concluded that
the Bottlenose Wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae) and Whitespotted Wedgefish (R. djiddensis) have suffered significant
population declines estimated between 50-80% over the last three decades. In Pakistan, wedgefishes and guitarfishes
used to be abundant in commercial landings, however, catches of these species have considerably dropped, with almost
all wedgefishes having disappeared from landings and are now rarely recorded. In Indonesia, landings data indicate sig-
nificant declines (over 80%) in the target gillnet fisheries for wedgefishes that began in the mid-1970s and reached a peak
in 1987. Similar declines are noted throughout the range of all wedgefish and giant guitarfish species.
Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are morphologically similar and experience the same level of fishing pressure that
has driven sawfishes (family Pristidae) to near extinction over the past few decades. Sawfishes have now been afforded
© Demian Chapman
© Rima Jabado© Rima Jabado
© Stan Shea 3
species-specific protections in a number of countries and have been listed on international agreements including Appen-
dix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), effectively banning all
commercial trade. However, wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are largely unmanaged and it is highly likely that without
regulations to ensure sustainable trade, the exceptionally high value of their fins will drive additional declines globally, thus
threatening the survival of wild populations.
Benefits of listing wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes on CITES
Current CITES proposals are for the inclusion of R. australiae and R. djiddensis from the family Rhinidae as well as the
Blackchin Guitarfish (Glaucostegus cemiculus) and the Sharpnose Guitarfish (Glaucostegus granulatus) from the family
Glaucostegidae in Appendix II. These proposals include the listing of all look-alike and putative species from the family
Rhinidae: Clown Wedgefish (R. cooki), Taiwanese Wedgefish (R. immaculatus), Smoothnose Wedgefish (R. laevis), Afri-
can Wedgefish (R. luebberti), Eyebrow Wedgefish (R. palpebratus), Broadnose Wedgefish (R. springeri), False Shark Ray
(Rhynchorhina mauritaniensis), Bowmouth Guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma), as well as the family Glaucostegidae: Halavi
Guitarfish (G. halavi), Giant Guitarfish (G. typus), Clubnose Guitarfish (G. thouin), Widenose Guitarfish (G. obtusus).
In 2017, Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) listed R. australiae on
Appendix II of the Convention, recognizing that this species is in need of collaborative international conservation action. In
2018, the CMS Sharks Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) also listed this species on its Annex along with two look-
alike species (R. djiddensis and R. laevis). Given the recent nature of these listings, no collaborative measures have yet been
taken and a listing on CITES Appendix II would represent a strong commitment towards cooperative and global action by
those CITES Parties that are also signatories to CMS and the Sharks MoU. It is clear that coordinated and comprehensive
action is needed and a listing in Appendix II of CITES would encourage sustainable trade and management of these species
while preventing international trade in their high value fins from driving them to extinction.
Objectives of this guide
The primary objectives of this guide are to illustrate and provide a tool for the identification of all known species of wedgefish-
es and giant guitarfishes. The inability to adequately identify wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes has been a widespread and
common problem for fisheries managers with catches of these species often going unmonitored. Also, the taxonomic status of
several species remains unclear with some species challenging to identify due to similar body shape, colour, and overlapping
distributions. Essential to our understanding of the status of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, and the successful implemen-
tation of CITES listings, is accurate species identification along with the strict enforcement of fishing, trade, and protection
measures. This guide will support and assist field biologists, researchers, fisheries enumerators, and customs officials to rapidly
and accurately identify wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes as whole animals or from their fresh or dried unprocessed fins.
How to use this guide
For each known species of wedgefish and giant guitarfish, information on the key features used in their identification is pro-
vided. Key features for each species should be used in conjunction with the more general family characteristics provided
on page 11. Common names used here follow Last et al. (2016) or the most commonly accepted name across the majority
of their range (e.g., Bowmouth Guitarfish is used instead of the Australian name Shark Ray for Rhina ancylostoma).
Key features and illustrations
The key features presented are those by which a species can be most easily identified in the field. These characteristics
include body shape, fin positions, and colour patterns. It is important to note that typical of many chondrichthyan fishes,
wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes undergo ontogenetic changes (as they develop from juveniles to adults) in fin shape
that typify development. Specifically, dorsal fins change shape to become taller and more erect as they develop. The illus-
trations of each species in this guide are re-creations based on available photographs (mostly from the Northwest Indian
Ocean region and West Africa) and available illustrations. It is however important to note that body coloration can vary
depending on the state of the animal (i.e., fresh, frozen, dried, preserved, etc.). Furthermore, many of these illustrations are
based on morphological characteristics exhibited by adults and some features, colours, patterns might differ in juveniles
and are therefore mentioned in the identifying features. Species within each family are arranged based on their closest
morphological species or ‘look-alike’.
Finally, it is important to note while the identification features presented here are based on the best available information,
the taxonomy of many of these species (especially wedgefishes) is currently being revised and it is possible that specimens
observed at landing sites might have differing features. If readers encounter specimens that are rare, not identifiable by
using this guide, or are unsure of their identifications, it is recommended to retain them for further investigation and take ap-
propriate photographs and tissue samples. Readers can also contact the author for assistance on
Species distributions are mapped as overlays of individual distributions to show species richness for each family. These have
been mapped based on Last et al. (2016) (except for the Clubnose Guitarfish that is not considered to occur in the Red
Sea), Jabado et al. (2017), and confirmed photographic records.
IUCN Categories
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the most comprehensive framework for assessing the extinction risk of the world’s
plant and animal species. The current conservation status of each species is indicated by a logo under each species name.
Abbreviations for these categories in order of decreasing threat are: EX, Extinct; EW, Extinct in the Wild; CR, Critically En-
dangered; EN, Endangered; VU, Vulnerable; NT, Near Threatened; LC, Least Concern; and DD, Data Deficient.
Lower caudal fin
Pelvic fins
First dorsal fin Second dorsal fin
Pectoral fins
Key identifying features
base – part of a projection (e.g. fin) connected to body
blotch – variably sized area or patch that is different in
colour to adjacent areas
bulbous – a shape, swollen or bulging
denticle – a small, tooth-like structure on the skin
dorsal – pertaining to the upper part or surface of back
indentation – notch or concavity on the surface of some-
margin – edge or rim
ocellated – having eye-like markings
posterior – relating to back of or tail end of an animal
rostral - on upper part of the snout
spiracle – a respiratory opening behind the eyes
snout – part of head in front of eyes
translucent – allows light in but not totally transparent
ventral – pertaining to the lower part or surface
Upper caudal fin
Free rear tips
Fin origin
Key terms
© Philippe Lecomte
© Andy Murch
16 species
decline in the
population of most
Meat often consumed
by coastal communities
Sold for shark fin soup
in Hong Kong and
China as Qun Chi
Highest value fins of all
sharks and rays
Live in coastal and
inshore areas
Late to mature
Long gestation
Visual identification of
dried unprocessed fins
© Andy Murch
WEDGEFISHES - Family Rhinidae
The family Rhinidae includes 10 valid species from three genera: Rhina,
Rhynchobatus, and Rhynchorhina. Wedgefishes are medium to large rays
(reaching up to 3.1 m total length as adults) that are mostly found in warm
temperate to tropical inshore continental seas, and rarely occur deep-
er than 400 m. They have a primarily Indo-Pacific distribution with only
two species occurring in the eastern Atlantic. Most species have rows of
white spots or ocelli on their bodies, and often a black marking on each
pectoral fin that is variably surrounded by white spots. This black marking
is generally most obvious in young and can fade or disappear in adults.
GIANT GUITARFISHES - Family Glaucostegidae
The family Glaucostegidae includes six valid species from one genus:
Glaucostegus. Giant guitarfishes are medium-sized to large rays (adults
of most species exceed 3 m total length) that primarily inhabit subtropical
and tropical inshore continental and insular seas across the Indo-Pacific
and eastern Atlantic, including the Mediterranean Sea. They occur at
depths up to 100-120 m but are mostly found in intertidal habitats with
some species having been recorded in fresh and brackish waters. Most
species have no spots, stripes, or blotches.
Species richness 1 2 3 4 5
Origin of first dorsal
fin well behind the
tips of pelvic fins
Origin of first dorsal fin
above pelvic fins
Caudal fin with very
distinct lower lobe
2-3 short series of thorns on
each shoulder
Head angular and wedge-
shaped (only in the Rhynchobatus
genus; rounded in Rhina and
Head spade-like to wedge-
shaped with translucent snout
Small thorns confined to a
row along mid-line of body
Caudal fin lacking
obvious lower lobe
Pectoral fins not joined to
the body to form a disc
Pectoral fins joined to the
body to form a disc
Upper jaw of mouth
straight without
Underside of head
Upper jaw of mouth with
at least one indentation in
the middle
WEDGEFISHES - Family Rhinidae
© Elke Bojanowski -- Red Sea Sharks
Bowmouth Guitarfish - Rhina ancylostoma False Shark Ray - Rhynchorhina mauritaniensis
Clown Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus cooki
The Clown
Wedgefish is the small-
est of the wedgefishes and
reaches 82 cm total length. It is
known from less than 20 speci-
mens and has not been recorded
since 1996, despite extensive
fish market surveys across
Southeast Asia.
Prominent ridges with
large thorns on back
Broad, rounded
Caudal fin
Flattened blunt snout with large trans-
verse black blotch on underside
Thorny patches of ridges above eyes,
spiracles, shoulder, and mid-line of back
Caudal fin with distinct
small lower lobe
2 irregular rows
of large thorns on
Prominent white margin
along body
Lacks pectoral fin markings
Bottlenose Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus australiae Whitespotted Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus djiddensis
Smoothnose Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus laevis Taiwanese Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus immaculatus
3 white spots aligned over the pectoral
marking (usually 2 spots below)
Bottle-shaped snout slightly constricted near tip
Dorsal surface can
be almost uniformly
blackish with no mark-
ings in some adults
Spots with ring-like
dusky colour pattern
in adults
Fin tips dusky
No black pectoral marking
Row of small white spots
originating over origin of
pelvic fin and coalescing to
form a line on tail
Prominent black bars
between eyes
Pectoral marking often ocellated,
surrounded by 4-7 white spots
Black pectoral marking usually
surrounded by 4 or more white spots
Snout underside usu-
ally with dark blotch
Single white spot above
pelvic fin origin
4-5 rows of white spots
along each side beneath
first dorsal fin
Broadnose Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus springeri Eyebrow Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus palpebratus
2 eyebrow-like black
markings often present
Black pectoral marking usually surrounded by 3-4 white
spots with outermost pair closer together than inner pair
Black pectoral marking usually
surrounded by 3-4 equally
spaced white spots
2-4 rows of spots on each side under 1st
dorsal fin forming a pale faint line continuing
along the body but ending before tail
African Wedgefish - Rhynchobatus luebberti
Faint dark bars
between eyes
in young
2 large blackish blotches on
shoulders (fading in adults)
Dense white spots with
black contour extend all
the way to the tail
3-4 rows of spots on each
side extending along the
tail sometimes forming
pale lines
Usually dark markings
on and/or behind eyes
The African
Wedgefish is the only
Rhynchobatus species to
occur in the Atlantic Ocean. It is
endemic to West Africa and has
been recorded from Maurita-
nia to Congo. It has already
disappeared from much of
its former range.
Paired rows of
rostral thorns on
the snout 15
GIANT GUITARFISHES - Family Glaucostegidae
© Danny Copeland
Blackchin Guitarfish - Glaucostegus cemiculus Giant Guitarfish - Glaucostegus typus
Halavi Guitarfish - Glaucostegus halavi
Dorsal surface sometimes with
irregular dark-greyish blotches
Entire length of
rostral ridges
almost joined
Snout underside usually with dark blotch
Ventral surface entirely white
Snout underside usually with dark blotch in juveniles
Rostral ridges
separated at the
1-3 thorns on each
Single large
thorn on each
The fins of giant
guitarfishes are smaller
than those of wedgefishes but
are also extremely valuable. In
several African countries, pups
are removed from pregnant fe-
males so their fins can also be
traded internationally.
© Danny Copeland
Clubnose Guitarfish - Glaucostegus thouin Widenose Guitarfish - Glaucostegus obtusus
Dorsal fins short with
rounded apices
Very short and obtuse snout
Bulbous snout tip projecting forward
Lacks dark blotch on snout Thorns along mid-line of body can be
enlarged and irregular
Sharpnose Guitarfish - Glaucostegus granulatus
Very long, narrow, translucent,
and triangular snout
Pair of 2-3 large thorns on
each shoulder The six valid
species of giant gui-
tarfishes were only recently
recognized as a separate family
and genus. Genetic analyses in-
dicate that they are more closely
related to sawfishes than other
species of guitarfishes.
Overview of fin identification
This quick overview of wedgefish and giant guitarfish fin identification covers fins that are likely to be encountered dried for
sale at landing sites or fishing ports, sold by fin traders, or packed as batches destined for the international trade. Batches
of dried fins usually include all the different fins of sharks and shark-like rays and are most easily identified when dried and
unprocessed (skin on). Fins from wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are distinctive when compared to shark fins. Furthermore,
dried and unprocessed fins can easily be visually identified because of their size, shape, colour, and texture. On the other
hand, wedgefish fins are morphologically similar to those from giant guitarfishes once removed from the whole animals
making identification to a species-level challenging. However, visual fin ID is possible at the family level (Rhinidae vs Glau-
costegidae). This ability to visually identify the primary product in trade will aid in the implementation and enforcement of
these proposed CITES Appendix II listings.
In general, the primary fins derived from wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes that are traded internationally for shark fin soup
are the two dorsal fins and the entire caudal fins. This overview provides a breakdown of the main characteristics that can
be used to quickly and easily separate dorsal fins from other types of fins (i.e., pectoral fins) as well as caudal fins to the
family and sometimes genus level for the family Rhinidae. Visually distinguishing unprocessed dorsal fins of wedgefishes from
those of morphologically similar hammerhead shark species (Scalloped Hammerhead Sphyrna lewini, Smooth Hammer-
head S. zygaena, and Great Hammerhead S. mokarran) is described in more detail in Abercrombie & Hernandez (2017).
Dorsal fins
Unlike many shark species that have a second dorsal fin that is much smaller than the first, the first and second dorsal fins of
wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are large and tall, often very similar in height and shape. They are usually sold as a set
and every two dorsal fins found in fin batches can be considered to represent one individual.
Caudal fin
The whole caudal fin of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes is typically retained and dried. In comparison, for sharks, the lower
lobe of the caudal fin is the most valuable and retained separately to the upper lobe (which is sometimes discarded). When
whole, caudal fins are distinctive and easily distinguished by the presence or absence of distinct upper and lower lobes.
Below are some guidelines to help distinguish between dorsal and caudal fins of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes.
Step 1. Find dorsal fins and caudal fins from batches of fins and distinguish them from other fins such as pectoral fins. It is important
to note that pectoral fins found in the trade will usually only belong to sharks and not wedgefishes or giant guitarfishes.
Pectoral fins are usually darker on the top side/dor-
sal view (a) and lighter underneath/ventral view (b)
Dorsal (a) and caudal fins (b) are the same colour on
both sides. Dorsal fins (a) also have a free rear tip
(a) (b) (a) (b)
The landmarks used to describe key features of
fins are the same for sharks and rays and are
presented here for dorsal fins:
Trailing edge
Leading edge
Free rear tipFin base
Hammerhead dorsal fins have
small cartilaginous blocks present
along almost the entire fin base
Step 4. For dull brown or light grey tall fins (fin height > fin length), check and confirm that they do not belong to hammerhead sharks
Step 2. Distinguish between shark and wedgefish and giant guitarfish dorsal fins
Denticles visible but
texture is smooth
Enlarged denticles visible
and texture is rough
Wedgefishes -- Rhinidae Giant Guitarfishes -- Glaucostegidae
Cartilaginous blocks in wedgefish and
giant guitarfish dorsal fins do not extend
across the entire fin base and can be split
in one or two big sections
row of cartilage along entire fin base small row of cartilage
Step 3. Check the texture of the fins to determine if they are smooth and shiny or have enlarged denticles
Dorsal fins of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes have a free
rear tip that starts anterior or before the apex and which is
moderately longer when compared to the fin base.
Sharks Wedgefishes Giant Guitarfishes
Is the fin the same col-
our on both sides?
Key to identification based on dorsal fins
Does it have a free rear
Is the fin tall and nar-
row with the fin height >
fin length?
Does it have white
spots close to the base?
Is the free rear tip short
and rounded?
This is not a dorsal fin
If the colour is dark brown/
grey, this is likely a fin from
Rhina ancylostoma
If the colour is dull brown/light grey, with a
smooth and shiny texture, this is likely a fin from a
Rhynchobatus spp.
NO Does it have enlarged
denticles on the upper half
of the fin?
YES If the colour is dull brown/light grey,
this is likely a fin from a
Glaucostegus spp.
Do the cartilaginous
blocks extend across the
entire fin base?
NO If the cartilaginous blocks are few or
not visible, this is likely a fin from a
Rhynchobatus spp.
This is likely the fin of a hammerhead shark Sphyrna spp.
This species is already listed on CITES Appendix II
Key to identification based on caudal fins
Is the fin the same
colour on both sides?
Is there a distinct up-
per and lower lobe?
Is the lower lobe
long, almost or more
than half the length
of the upper lobe?
This is not a caudal fin
If the fin is lunate with almost sym-
metrical upper and lower lobes,
this is likely from
Rhina ancylostoma
If the lower lobe is less than half the length of the
upper lobe with no distinct notch visible on the pos-
terior margin, this is likely a fin from a
Rhynchobatus spp. or Rhynchorhina mauritaniensis
If the lower lobe is absent and the upper half is cov-
ered with enlarged denticles, this is likely a fin from
a Glaucostegus spp.
Note -- This fin identification overview was compiled to highlight that it is possible to visually identify fins from wedgefishes
and giant guitarfishes. Several other key characteristics have been omitted including the differences between these fins
and those of other CITES listed species such as the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) and sawfishes (Pristidae). A com-
prehensive guide to fin identification will be developed if these species are listed on CITES.
Species checklist
Rhinidae -- Wedgefishes
Critically EndangeredBloch & Schneider, 1801Rhina ancylostomaBowmouth Guitarfish
Critically EndangeredWhitley, 1939Rhynchobatus australiaeBottlenose Wedgefish
Critically EndangeredLast, Kyne & Compagno, 2016Rhynchobatus cookiClown Wedgefish
Critically Endangered(Forsskål, 1775)Rhynchobatus djiddensisWhitespotted Wedgefish
Critically EndangeredLast, Ho & Chen, 2013Rhynchobatus immaculatusTaiwanese Wedgefish
Critically Endangered(Bloch & Schneider, 1801)Rhynchobatus laevisSmoothnose Wedgefish
Critically EndangeredEhrenbaum, 1915Rhynchobatus luebbertiAfrican Wedgefish
Near ThreatenedCompagno & Last, 2008Rhynchobatus palpebratusEyebrow Wedgefish
Critically EndangeredCampagno & Last, 2010Rhynchobatus springeriBroadnose Wedgefish
Critically EndangeredSéret & Naylor, 2016Rhynchorhina mauritaniensisFalse Shark Ray
Glaucostegidae -- Giant Guitarfishes
Critically Endangered(Geoffroy St Hilaire, 1817)Glaucostegus cemiculusBlackchin Guitarfish
Critically Endangered(Cuvier, 1829)Glaucostegus granulatusSharpnose Guitarfish
Critically Endangered(Forsskål, 1775)Glaucostegus halaviHalavi Guitarfish
Critically Endangered(Müller & Henle, 1841)Glaucostegus obtususWidenose Guitarfish
Critically Endangered(Anonymous, 1798)Glaucostegus thouinClubnose Guitarfish
Critically Endangered(Bennett, 1830)Glaucostegus typusGiant Guitarfish
The development of this guide was made possible through the generous support of Vulcan, Inc. A number of individuals have provided
support, information, and reviewed this document and are gratefully acknowledged: Luke Warwick (Wildlife Conservation Society),
Megan O’Toole (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Daniel Fernando (Blue Resources Trust), Dr. David Ebert (Pacific Shark Research
Center), and Benaya Simeon (Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia). Special thanks go to Debra Abercrombie (Abercrombie & Fish)
for her guidance and support with the fin identification flowcharts and for providing pictures of dorsal fin cross-sections for wedgefishes
and hammerhead sharks. Many thanks also go to Dr. Peter Kyne (Charles Darwin University) for his helpful and constructive review.
Stan Shea (Bloom Association) and Demian Chapman (Florida International University) are acknowledged for providing pictures of
traded specimens and products. Finally, with the declines of many wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes around the world, sourcing live
pictures of specimens proved to be extremely hard. I would like to thank Dr. Simon Pierce for his support as well as all those individuals
who provided pictures including Guy Stevens (Manta Trust), Andy Murch (, Philippe Lecomte, Elke Bojanowski (Red
Sea Sharks), Danny Copeland, Dan Beecham, and Al Dove (Georgia Aquarium).
Abercrombie DL, Chapman DD, Gulak SJB & Carlson JK. 2013.
Visual identification of fins from common elasmobranchs in the
northwest Atlantic Ocean. NMFS-SEFSC-643. 51 p
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Species: Proposals for amendment of Appendices I and II.
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A lack of management action for wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes has contributed to
their current threatened status. Some populations have collapsed globally, with declines of
more than 80% in many regions. Action is needed now to halt declines and secure a future
for these species.
Published by
Wildlife Conservation Society
Sharks and Rays Program
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460
The objective of this guide is to provide a tool for the identification of 16 species of wedgefish and giant guitarfish
(order Rhinopristiformes: families Rhinidae and Glaucostegidae) being proposed for listing on the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). It can be used in the identification of species
for fisheries purposes or for the implementation of CITES listings (if these species are listed). The content is divided into
three sections: (1) an overview of the status of species around the world, (2) information on each species and key iden-
tification features that allow these species to be visually separated in the field, and (3) an overview of fin identification
showcasing how to visually identify fins of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes to the family level.
... Kyne et al. (2019) while describing the threat of extinction being faced by wedgefish and guitarfish also gave an account of their fisheries (1999)(2000)(2001)(2002)(2003)(2004)(2005)(2006)(2007)(2008)(2009)(2010)(2011) from Sindh and Balochistan, Pakistan. Some aspects of the fisheries of these species in Pakistan were also included in studies carried out by Jabado (2018Jabado ( , 2019, Jabado and Spaet (2017) and . Gore et al. (2019) in his recent work on the elasmobranch fisheries of Balochistan also covered some aspects of fisheries guitarfish and wedgefish in province of Balochistan. ...
... These include placing sharks, rays and guitafishes on CITES Appendices or on IUCN Red List (Dulvy et al., 2014;Jabado et al., 2018;Last et al., 2016). There has been a surge on the studies focused on fisheries of elasmobranch in the Arabian Sea and contiguous sea (Chen, 1996;Dent and Clarke, 2015;Dulvy et al.,2014;Haque et al., 2018;Henederson et al., 2004;Jabado, 2018Jabado, , 2019Jabado and Ebert, 2015;Jabado and Spaet, 2017;Jabado et al., 2014Jabado et al., , 2018Karnard et al., 2020;Kyne et al., 2019;Moore, 2017). Some of these studies specifically dealt with fisheries guitarfish and wedgefish (Jabado, 2018;2019;Jabado and Spaet, 2017;Kyne et al., 2019;Moore, 2017). ...
... There has been a surge on the studies focused on fisheries of elasmobranch in the Arabian Sea and contiguous sea (Chen, 1996;Dent and Clarke, 2015;Dulvy et al.,2014;Haque et al., 2018;Henederson et al., 2004;Jabado, 2018Jabado, , 2019Jabado and Ebert, 2015;Jabado and Spaet, 2017;Jabado et al., 2014Jabado et al., , 2018Karnard et al., 2020;Kyne et al., 2019;Moore, 2017). Some of these studies specifically dealt with fisheries guitarfish and wedgefish (Jabado, 2018;2019;Jabado and Spaet, 2017;Kyne et al., 2019;Moore, 2017). Jabado and Spaet (2017) Pakistan. ...
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Guitarfish and wedgefish are commercially exploited in Pakistan (Northern Arabian Sea) since long. It is estimated that their commercial landings ranged between 4,206 m. tons in 1981 to 403 metric tons in 2011. Analysis of the landing data from Karachi Fish Harbor (the largest fish landing center in Pakistan) revealed that seven species of guitarfish and wedgefish are landed (January 2019-February 2020 data). Granulated guitarfish (Glaucostegus granulatus) contributed about 61.69 % in total annual landings of this group followed by widenose guitarfish (G. obtusus) contributing about 23.29 % in total annual landings of guitarfish and wedgefish. Annandale's guitarfish (Rhinobatos annandalei) and bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma) contributed 7.32 and 5.97 % in total annual landings respectively. Spotted guitarfish (R. punctifer), Halavi ray (G. halavi), smoothnose wedgefish (Rhynchobatus laevis) and Salalah guitarfish (Acroteriobatus salalah) collectively contributed about 1.73 % in total annual landings. Smoothnose wedgefish (R. laevis) is rarest of all the members of Order Rhinopristiformes. G. granulatus, G. obtusus, R. ancylostoma, G. halavi and R. laevis are critically endangered according to IUCN Red List whereas A. salalah is near threatened and R. annandalei is data deficient. There are no aimed fisheries for guitarfish and wedgefish in Pakistan but these fishes are mainly caught as by-catch of bottom-set gillnetting and shrimp trawling. Some aspects of biology of these species are also presented in the paper.
... BPSPL Pontianak (2018) Sedikit sekali diketahui level kerawanan secara spesifik spesies wedgefishes dan giant guitarfishes. Literatur yang didapatkan banyak memberikan informasi yang kurang akurat dan terbatasnya upaya penelitian (Jabado, 2019). Organisasi internasional perlindungan dan konservasi alam IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) merilis 8 (delapan) daftar merah (red list) status keterancaman biota atau organisme berdasarkan kondisi populasi dan keterancaman akibat aktifitas manusia. ...
... Organisasi internasional perlindungan dan konservasi alam IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) merilis 8 (delapan) daftar merah (red list) status keterancaman biota atau organisme berdasarkan kondisi populasi dan keterancaman akibat aktifitas manusia. R. australiae dan R. springeri masuk dalam kategori critically endangered/sangat langka (Jabado, 2019;Kyne, 2019;Kyne et al., 2019;IUCN, 2012). ...
Rhynchobatus springeri (R. springeri) and Rhynchobatus australiae (R. australiae), which belong to wedgefish species, are the main target of captures of the bottom gill net fishery at PPI Sungai Kakap, West Kalimantan, a fishing ground in the Indonesian Fisheries Management Area 711 (WPP NRI 711). The fin is the main part in business activity in fisheries and has been exported due to high demand with promising price. But, there is a scarcity of research on this species (Jabado, 2019) especially the information about the level of vulnerability of the wedgefish species. The status of R. springeri and R. australiae are critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List (Jabado, 2019; Kyne, 2019; Kyne et al, 2019a; IUCN, 2012). CPUE is the amount of fish catch per unit of effort. The term ‘effort’ in this research is the length of days at sea per trip of fishing operation. Data collection includes the number of landings of Rhynchobatus species and length of days at sea from each fishing vessel during the years of 2016 and 2019. Microsoft Excel was used for data analysis. The results showed that the average CPUE was 54.34 piece/trip, or 1,512.19 kg/trip and 1.75 piece/day, or 48.78 kg/day per ship. The correlation between CPUE and effort is positively significant. At the CPUE piece/trip, the linear equation shown as follow y = 0.3583x-38.531 with R2 = 0.8724 or R = 0.9340. Whereas, at the CPUE kg/trip, the linear equation was y = 9,0823x-842,11 with R2 = 0,791 or R = 0,889 (Y is CPUE and X is effort).
... This is because the questionnaire consisted of open-ended questions where respondents were allowed a certain degree of freedom to initiate new topics and provide additional information regarding shark and ray fisheries. Respondents were asked to clarify species identification by using published guides [41][42][43][44] and images taken at local landing sites. ...
... While fishers noted this rhino ray protection, some landings of giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes were observed at Junglighat (<15 individuals) [24]. However, fins of many more rhino rays individuals (>50) were visually confirmed [44] and regularly recorded drying between the months of December and February coinciding with operational shark and ray fisheries (pelagic longline and trawl nets) (Tyabji, unpub. data). ...
Overfishing is recognized as the most pervasive threat to sharks and rays globally. While there is increasing emphasis on ecological aspects of shark and ray fisheries, socio-economic considerations are often poorly incorporated into management policies. Here, we assess the utilization and trade of sharks and rays across the Andaman Islands by conducting semi-structured interviews with 87 fishers and eight traders. Sharks and rays were exported to supply the meat market in peninsular India and contribute to the international trade in products such as fins, gill plates, and liver oil. A large proportion of fishers (n = 38, 43.67%) consumed sharks and rays due to declines in reef fish, as an accessible and cheap protein source. Small-sized sharks (<1 m total length), juvenile hammerheads, and uniformly coloured rays were preferred for local consumption. Fishers (n = 43, 49.42%) noted the difficulty of relying on profits from shark fishing due to declines in shark populations. However, it was easier to fish and trade rays due to their perceived abundance, few regulations, and increased demand for their products. Traders (n = 7, 87.5%) mentioned a rising demand for ray meat from peninsular India, leading to the development of a targeted ray fishery. Expanding and targeted shark and ray fisheries benefit the stakeholders who have the resources to invest, while affecting the livelihoods of others due to declining local fisheries resources. Our results highlight the need to revise and improve legal frameworks to consider the conservation needs of threatened species and likely impacts on local communities.
... Being a leading elasmobranch fishing nation, high fishing pressure over the years as caused steady decline in the population of several batoid fishes in Indian waters (Dulvy et al., 2008;Kyne, 2016;Jabado et al., 2017). Characteristics like low fecundity, later maturity and slow growth efficiency make them highly susceptible to population decline (Jabado, 2019). Akhilesh et al. (2014) carried out an extensive study on Indian elasmobranchs and listed 227 species reported from Indian waters based on the literature survey and listed 169 species as valid from India comprising 79 batoids, 88 sharks and 2 chimaeras (Akhilesh et al., 2023). ...
... As a result, catches over recent decades have increased and there are signs of growing international trade [11,36,9]. The fins of Sawfishes, Wedgefishes, and Giant Guitarfishes are the most highly prized and highly valued fins and are known as "Qun Chi" and these fins are worth USD$185-964 per kg [25,28]. As a result, the three families with the largest body sizes and greatest proportions of threatened species (Sawfishes, Giant Guitarfishes, and Wedgefishes) were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 (Sawfishes) and 2019 (Giant Guitarfishes and Wedgefishes) to ensure legal and sustainable international trade [15,18]. ...
Some sharks and rays are subject to fisheries catch and international trade regulations. However, the Guitarfishes (family Rhinobatidae) are a highly threatened group with minimal regulations. The true volume of Guitarfishes in international trade is underestimated and masked by substantial underreporting of catch and the use of broad commodity codes for traded products. Here, we begin to document the extent of trade by collating international trade information for Guitarfishes that have not readily been documented in trade, possibly due to poor resolution of molecular genetic markers. We also assess the shortfall in fisheries management (M-Risk) for all species of Guitarfish based on 99 assessments across 28 countries. Globally, Guitarfishes are inadequately managed, with an average M-Risk of 45% of an ideal score, resulting in 76% of species being threatened globally. The high and unregulated catch and trade volume, paired with the management shortfalls, require global integrated improvement in fisheries management, supported by regulating international trade to sustainable levels.
... The species is regularly caught in the shark-control program as a non-targeted species and, as such, is always released. However, in several instances, photographs were taken by fishers and confirmed the identification of the bottlenose wedgefish based on the pattern of white spots on the body and especially the presence of three white spots aligned over the pectoral marking [40]. In addition, on some occasions, samples were collected (n = 12) before release, and these samples were barcoded. ...
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Elasmobranchs are declining worldwide due to overfishing. In developing countries and island states in tropical regions, small-scale and recreational fisheries can significantly impact the dynamics of neritic species. We investigated elasmobranch diversity at Reunion Island, a marine biodiversity hotspot in the Western Indian Ocean. Combining information from the literature, catches from the local shark control program, results from a survey of local recreational fishing, and through barcoding of some specimens, we updated the list of elasmobranchs to 65 species. However, uncertainties remain about the actual presence of some species, such as the three sawfish species. Results highlight the disappearance of most coral reef-associated species, as already suspected. Results also suggest that local populations of scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) and bottlenose wedgefish (Rhynchobatus australiae) seem healthy, in contrast with their decline in the region. For some species, such as bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and scalloped hammerhead sharks, Reunion Island is a site of reproduction, and as such, the species are exploited at both juvenile and adult stages, which likely increases their vulnerability. In the context of global elasmobranch decline, it is urgent to clarify the conservation status and evaluate the degree of isolation of local populations to identify research and conservation priorities.
... The 2018 capture of one individual in the open ocean with a school of tuna (Forget & Muir, 2021), however, indicates how little understood these rare and endangered fish are. Species-specific trade data is also limited, with inferences from elasmobranch landings data and elasmobranch fin market surveys given their exceptionally high value fins (Moore, 2017), which can fetch up to USD 964/kilogram (Jabado, 2018(Jabado, , 2019. The protein-rich meat of the bowmouth is consumed by some communities when landed in the coastal states of its range, as well as being exported dried (Nasir & Afsar, 2020). ...
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Online research methods are increasingly used in conservation science to monitor and collect data on online wildlife trade. Shark‐like rays (Rhinopristiformes) are among the most threatened vertebrates, prized for their high‐value fins while other uses for their derivatives are largely unrecognized in the literature. The bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostomus) is characterized by ridges of enlarged thorns, sometimes sold as amulets. Listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II, the thorn‐market has been ignored and undocumented. Using systematic, retrospective online searches, we recorded 977 bowmouth‐derivatives for sale. In our global and multi‐lingual scope, 97% of products were offered from Thailand, despite prohibited trade. 98% of all products were thorns (USD3‐300) and sold alongside high‐profile CITES‐listed taxa (e.g., tiger claws). Consistent advertisements from 2012 revealed a previously unquantified trade of an often‐neglected marketplace in elasmobranch research. Our findings offer insight into the drivers of the thorn trade, potentially rooted in cultural beliefs. Our accessible research methods can be applied internationally and across species, providing quantitative and qualitative insights on aspects of the wildlife trade of a critically endangered fish. Continued monitoring of online markets, like this study, is necessary to fill critical gaps for informed policy and species‐specific management.
... As a result, catches over recent decades have increased, and many regularly enter the international trade (Moore 2017, Cardeñosa et al. 2020, Choy et al. 2022. The fins of Sawfishes, Wedgefishes and Giant Guitarfishes are the most highly prized and highly valued fins and are known as "Qun Chi" and these fins are worth USD$185-964 per kg (Hau et al. 2018, Jabado 2019. As a result, the three families with the largest body sizes and greatest proportions of threatened species (Sawfishes, Giant Guitarfishes, and Wedgefishes) were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 (Sawfishes) and 2019 (Giant Guitarfishes and Wedgefishes) to ensure legal and sustainable international trade (Dent andClarke 2015, Dulvy et al. 2021). ...
Full-text available
Some sharks and rays are subject to fisheries catch and international trade regulations. However, the Guitarfishes (family Rhinobatidae) are a highly threatened group with minimal regulations. Substantial underreporting of catch and broad commodity codes for traded products are masking the true volume of Guitarfishes included in international trade. Here, we collate international trade information for Guitarfishes that have not readily been documented in trade, possibly due to poor resolution of molecular genetic markers, to begin to document the extent of trade. We assess the shortfall in fisheries management (M-Risk) for all species of Guitarfish based on 99 assessments across 28 countries. Globally, Guitarfishes are inadequately managed, with an average M-Risk of 45% of an ideal score, resulting in 76% of species being threatened globally. The high and unregulated catch and trade volume, paired with the management shortfalls, require global integrated improvement in fisheries management, supported by regulating international trade to sustainable levels.
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Rhino rays (Order Rhinopristiformes) are one of the most threatened vertebrate groups. Despite overfishing being recognised as the greatest threat to this group, a comprehensive assessment of the fisheries and types of fishing gear that rhino rays interact with is lacking. We reviewed published and grey literature ( n = 116 references) to evaluate interactions between rhino rays and fisheries, determine gear types most responsible for their capture, and species for which most interactions occur by region. Interactions ( n = 420) were reported from 37 of 88 range states, for 52 of 68 known species. Combined, 59% of the literature reported interactions from trawlers and gillnets. Wedgefishes (Rhinidae) were the most reported family (29%) and bowmouth guitarfish ( Rhina ancylostomus ) the most reported species (9.5%). Asia accounted for half of interactions ( n = 211), with 67% of the literature from unspecified gear (e.g., mixed landings), masking gear-specific interactions. Data quality was variable, with the highest resolution in countries with lower species diversity and where species are least imperiled (e.g., Australia). Discard mortality and physiological effects of capture are poorly known with data available for 25% of species (almost exclusively from Australia and the Americas). While additional data are urgently required to quantify the true extent of rhino ray catch globally, reducing fisheries mortality is a priority and key to address declining populations. Recommendations include prioritizing spatial management in critical habitats (e.g., nursery areas), expansion in the use of proven bycatch reduction devices, encouraging safe release and handling, and addressing drivers of retention and trade.
Context Giant guitarfish (Family: Glaucostegidae) and wedgefish (Family: Rhinidae) (Critically Endangered, IUCN Red List and CITES Appendix II) are highly exploited throughout their distribution because of their highly valued fins in the international market. Both are commonly caught as bycatch or secondary valuable catch in the Java Sea, including in Karimunjawa National Park, Central Java, Indonesia. Aims Assess the presence and relative abundance of giant guitarfish and wedgefish species in Karimunjawa National Park and adjacent waters. Methods Data were collected using baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys across 40 sites, covering multiple zonation areas and depth ranges. All species were identified to the species level and their relative abundance was tested with one-way PERMANOVA based on sites, zonation areas and depths. Key results Two target species, Glaucostegus typus and Rhynchobatus australiae, were present in the study area with a maximum number of 3 and 6 and relative abundance of 0.0048 and 0.0096 respectively, over 477 BRUVs and 623.9 h of videos. Their presence during the study was not affected by sites, zonations or depth. Implications The presence and relative abundance of both G. typus and R. australiae were low, which may be a result of decades of overfishing, and have provided the first information to the urgency of managing the species in the areas.
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The shark fin trade is a major driver of shark exploitation in fisheries all over the world, most of which are not managed on a species-specific basis. Species-specific trade information highlights taxa of particular concern and can be used to assess the efficacy of management measures and anticipate emerging threats. The species composition of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, one of the world's largest fin trading hubs, was partially assessed in 1999–2001. We randomly selected and genetically identified fin trimmings (n = 4,800), produced during fin processing, from the retail market of Hong Kong in 2014–2015 to assess contemporary species composition of the fin trade. We used nonparametric species estimators to determine that at least 76 species of sharks, batoids, and chimaeras supplied the fin trade and a Bayesian model to determine their relative proportion in the market. The diversity of traded species suggests species substitution could mask depletion of vulnerable species; one-third of identified species face serious risk of extinction. The Bayesian model suggested that 8 species each comprised >1% of the fin trimmings (34.1-64.2% for blue [Prionace glauca]; 0.2-1.2% for bull [Carcharhinus leucas] and shortfin mako [Isurus oxyrinchus]); thus, trade was skewed to a few globally distributed species. Several other coastal sharks, batoids, and chimaeras are in the trade but poorly managed. Fewer than 10 of the species we modeled have sustainably managed fisheries anywhere in their range, including the most common species in trade, the blue shark. Our study and approach serve as a baseline to track changes in composition of species in the fin trade over time to better understand patterns of exploitation and assess the effects of emerging management actions for these animals.
Technical Report
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Identifying Shark Fins was created to help enforcement personnel to provisionally identify the dried and wet fins of commercially traded CITES listed shark species based on morphological characteristics of their most distinctive fins in their commonly traded form (frozen and/or dried and unprocessed) at the first point of trade. A preliminary visual identification will establish reasonable or probable cause in enforcement settings so that expert opinion can be sought or genetic testing can confirm field identification, aiding governments in successfully implementing and enforcing the CITES shark listings and promoting legal, sustainable trade
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Focusing on the most critical conservation priorities to prevent extinctions risks missing declines of lower priority taxa that may become tomorrow’s emergency. Sawfishes (5 species) underwent catastrophic but largely unnoticed global declines in the latter 20th century, and are now the subject of intensive research and conservation efforts. Guitarfishes (at least 55 species) share many characteristics with sawfishes: they are shark-like batoids with an often large body, prefer sedimentary habitats in warm shallow coastal waters exposed to intensive fisheries, and have high value fins and good quality meat. Guitarfishes represent a unique element of evolution and biodiversity and are vital components of complex coastal socio-ecological systems. Existing global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments for nearly 60% of guitarfish species are 10 or more years old, and over 70% of species are either in threatened categories or Data Deficient. Recently described taxa not yet assessed include those likely to be at risk of extinction. Severe declines and localised extinctions have already been reported for guitarfishes. In notable contrast to sawfishes, total extinction of several guitarfish species is plausible given small distributions occurring solely in developing or least developed countries where conservation is highly challenging. Furthermore, species identification of guitarfishes is often problematic and they may lack the appeal often needed to promote conservation. To ensure that they do not follow the same trajectory as sawfishes, there is an urgent need for comprehensive and coordinated action on guitarfishes, which in many cases could integrate with sawfish conservation efforts.
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Rhynchobatus spp. (wedgefishes) are large benthopelagic shark-like rays with fins that are highly prized in the international shark fin trade. They are among the most threatened groups of sharks and rays globally. While Rhynchobatus spp. are known to be under considerable fishing pressure as a group, taxonomic confusion among species within the genus has compromised species-specific fishery and demographic data that are urgently needed for developing effective management strategies. Rhynchobatus australiae (Whitley, 1939) is a large Indo-West Pacific species reaching 2 to 3 m that is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This study combines new empirical data from field surveys with data obtained from verified reference specimens to investigate genetic and phenotypic variation in R. australiae and its relative incidence in fisheries. R. australiae dominated Rhynchobatus catch in fisheries surveys across Southeast Asia, and was the most commonly recorded species of the genus in Australia (94% and 58% of captures respectively, n = 207). Study specimens were consistent with a single species with moderate spatial mtDNA variation (ΦST = 0.198, p < 0.0001). We show that R. australiae can be reliably differentiated from other Indo-Pacific species with nadh2 (1044bp), and a section of the control region (456bp) short enough to amplify DNA from processed fins in international trade. We document aspects of morphological variability to assist in the description of external characters that differentiate this species. This is the first range-wide intraspecific study on any wedgefish species, and provides the most complete synthesis of mtDNA data to date for identifying Rhynchobatus fins in the global shark fin trade.
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A new species of wedgefish, Rhynchobatus immaculatus sp. nov., is described from a small collection of specimens obtained from fish markets in northern Taiwan. It is probably a medium-sized species (probably attaining ca. 1.5 m TL) because the largest known specimen, an immature male (ca. I m TL), has prolongated dorsal and caudal fins typical of adult wedgefishes. Rhynchobatus immaculatus is unique within the family in having a very high vertebral count (within the range of 165-170 total free centra) and in lacking a dark pectoral marking. Other Rhynchobatus species occurring in Taiwanese seas appear to attain a larger adult size, possess a dark pectoral marking at least in young, and have lower vertebral counts (fewer than 161 total fee centra). Rhynchobatus yentinesis, which was described from a specimen taken nearby at Wenzhou, China, has not yet been attributed to a currently recognised species. However, based on the illustration of the holotype, which reveals a broad-snouted species with a dark pectoral spot, it is closest to either R. palpebratus or R. springeri.
A new species of guitarfish, Rhinobatos ranongensis sp. nov., is described from 5 preserved specimens, and images and tissue samples of additional material, collected from the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. This species co-occurs in the eastern sector of the northern Indian Ocean with two poorly defined congeners, R. annandalei Norman and R. lionotus Norman, which have been misidentified and confused with Indo-Pacific congeners since they were first described in 1926. Norman's species are rediagnosed based on limited new material and a re-examination of the types. In the western sector of the northern Indian Ocean, Rhinobatos annandalei has been confused in recent literature with the sympatric R. punctifer Compagno and Randall, which is represented by four primary colour morphs, including a white-spotted colour morph resembling R. annandalei. Rhinobatos punctifer also displays strong intraspecific variability and sexual dimorphism in some body dimensions. These four species of Rhinobatos have unique MtDna sequences and belong to a clade of Indo-West Pacific species that are morphologically similar. Despite the relatively small numbers of specimens available for investigation , these species exhibit some clear differences in body proportions, meristics and squamation. Rhinobatos ra-nongensis sp. nov. differs from its northern Indian Ocean congeners through a combination of a relatively narrow disc and mouth, high vertebral count, long snout, low dorsal fins, and being largely plain coloured. A new lectotype and a paralec-totype are designated for the syntypes of R. annandalei, and the four primary colour forms of R. punctifer, the plain, white-spotted and ocellated morphs, are described and the three nominal species rediagnosed. A key is provided to the four known members of the genus in the northern Indian Ocean.
Shark-like batoids (Rhinopristiformes) represent of some of the most threatened families of sharks and rays. In certain regions, they are a relatively important component of elasmobranch fisheries, commonly taken as by-catch in gillnets and longlines, but also increasingly targeted for their high value fins and meat. This demand, combined with intense fishing pressure, has resulted in global population declines as well as localized extinctions of many rhinopristoids. Yet, information on the life-history, ecology, and conservation status remains scarce for most species. From 2010-2012, data was opportunistically collected from thirteen rhinopristoid species, including four endemic to the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters, landed from fisheries in the United Arab Emirates or transported from Oman. Four taxa dominated and comprised 92% of total shark-like batoid landings by number, namely Rhynchobatus spp., the Halavi guitarfish (Glaucostegus halavi), bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma), and Bengal guitarfish (Rhinobatos annandalei). Details of the biological characteristics, including size composition and sex ratios, are presented for each species. While there remain identification challenges related to some unresolved taxonomic issues, with several likely undescribed species occurring in the region, the first regional checklist of rhinopristoids is provided. Evidence of significant declines in landings combined with increasing fishing effort over a short time period raises concern about the status and long-term persistence of many species. Increased research to understand the biology, ecology, diversity, and resilience to harvest by fisheries is critical to the effective management of these species and an urgent precautionary approach to their conservation is warranted.
A new dwarf wedgefish, Rhynchobatus cooki sp. nov. is described from a single female from a Jakarta fish market (Indo-nesia) and 11 specimens collected at Jurong fish market (Singapore). First collected in 1934, the broader ichthyological community have been aware of this distinctive but little known ray since the late 1990's. Rhynchobatus cooki is the small-est of the wedgefishes (to 81 cm TL) and has the lowest vertebral count (fewer than 107 centra). It is also distinguishable from its congeners based on its long, hastate snout, very strongly undulate anterior pectoral-fin margin, coloration and aspects of its squamation. The dorsal coloration is mainly dark and distinctively marked with white blotches, spots and streaks, and has a dark cruciate marking on the interorbit and a prominent white border around the body margin. Unlike most other wedgefish species, the snout tip lacks dark blotches and there is no black pectoral-fin marking. It shares well-developed rostral spines with a much larger Atlantic species (Rhynchobatus luebberti), but these spines are confined to the snout tip (rather than being more numerous and extending in paired rows along the rostral ridges nearly to the eyes). No additional specimens have been observed since 1996, despite an increased recent effort to survey the chondrichthyan fauna of South-East Asia and collect biological data for species, raising concerns over its conservation status.
A new guitarfish, Rhinobatos borneensis sp. nov., is described from material collected at fish markets in Malaysian Borneo (South China Sea). This ray, which is almost plain coloured with faint orange blotches in adults, has a more colourful embryo marked with small pale ocelli with dark centres. Confused with R. Schlegelii (Japan to Taiwan) and its junior synonym R. formosensis, new molecular data suggests it is more closely related to a subgroup of Rhinobatos from the Indo-Malay Archipelago that includes R. jimbaranensis, R. Sainsburyi and R. whitei. Based on evidence from recent phylogenetic studies, the genus Rhinobatos is non-monophyletic, nor is the Rhinobatidae a monophyletic family-level group. Former subgenera of Rhinobatos, Acroteriobatus and Glaucostegus, are valid genus-level taxa supported by both morphological and molecular evidence. Moreover, amphi-American members of Rhinobatos, assigned herein to a new genus Pseudobatos, are not monophyletic with Rhinobatos, Acroteriobatus and Glaucostegus and its position within the newly erected order Rhinopristiformes needs to be reassessed. Several molecular studies have suggested that the family Rhinobatidae is polyphyletic and needs to be redefined. We propose a revised classification of the order Rhinopristiformes based on molecular analyses and supported by morphological data, making strong use of oronasal morphology. The group now contains 5 family-level taxa: three valid nominal taxa, Pristidae (2 genera, 5 species), Rhinidae (incorporating Rhynchobatidae, 2 genera, 9 species), Rhinobatidae (3 genera, 31 species); and two new taxa, Glaucostegidae (single genus, 6 species) and Trygonorrhinidae (3 genera, 8 species).