Atlantic Guitarfish, wedgefish, Atlantic shovelnose ray, white spotted
Body disc heart shaped. disc length
slightly greater than width. Snout pointed with rounded tip.
Body tapers into broad tail
topped by two well developed dorsal fins of roughly equal size. Caudal fin triangular with indistinct lower lobe. Dorsum color
variable. pale or sandy brown to chocolate brown. Sometimes olive or grey.
Usually with many small white spots which are sometimes densely grouped giving
the appearance of a white overall color with brown spots and blotches. Spots
sometimes indistinct. Bold orange-yellow coloration usually
visible in front of eyes and on tip of snout. Rostral cartilage between orange
areas appears to be pinkish or devoid of color. Cartilage thickens towards tip
of snout. Ventrum pale.
length 75cm but more commonly 60cm. 13cm at birth.
waters to 30m. On sandy bottoms and sea grass beds.
Often adjacent to reefs. Also along shorelines.
and distribution: Restricted to
the Western Atlantic from North Carolina to the Yucantan Peninsula in Mexico.
Also reported from Nicaragua. Common in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
on or partially buried in sand when not foraging for food.
Guitarfishes are ovoviviparous (yolk
The female's uterus is
lined with tiny club shaped villi that provide nutrients for the young as they
develop. Litters number up to 6 in Atlantic Guitarfish.
IUCN Red List Status: The Freckled Guitarfish (Rhinobatos
lentiginosus) has a wide distribution in the southeast USA and coastal
regions of the Gulf of Mexico, from North Carolina to Yucatán, Mexico and also
Nicaragua. A shallow coastal species from inshore to 30 m on sandy and weedy
bottom types. In some regions, for example Texas, it appears to be only
seasonally and locally common. Little biological information is available for
the Freckled Guitarfish. It reaches 76 cm TL and has a low fecundity (mean of
6.6 young/litter in the USA). Its narrow inshore habitat is susceptible to human
impacts. It is taken as bycatch in bottom shrimp trawls in the Gulf of Mexico
and occasionally by recreational fishers. Shrimp trawl fishing is intense in the
Gulf of Mexico, particularly in shallow waters where this species occurs, with
four to five million trawl hours annually. Although data from trawl surveys on
the eastern coast of the USA (1989–2005) showed no trend in the population of
this species, trawl and longline surveys in the northern Gulf of Mexico
(1972–2002) recorded it in only very low numbers, with the last record in 1994.
Rhinobatids are known to be vulnerable to population depletion as a result of
their limiting life-history characteristics and serious declines have been
documented where they are heavily fished. Given that demersal fishing pressure
is very intensive throughout the southern part of this species range and its
limiting life-history characteristics, it is given a precautionary assessment of
Near Threatened on the basis of inferred declines as a result of continuing high
levels of exploitation (close to meeting the criteria for VUA2d+4d). Collection
of further data from throughout this species range is a priority.
Ref: Casper, B.M., Burgess, G.H. & Shepherd, T. 2004.
Rhinobatos lentiginosus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Panama City beach pier. Panama City,
species: The Atlantic guitarfish
is the only guitarfish appearing within its range.
to divers: Generally easy to approach with careful slow movements especially
if encountered while free diving. Moves away or bolts upon very close
Atlantic guitarfishes are common visitors to fishing piers around Panama City in
the late spring and summer months. Spring is the best time to dive or snorkel
with them because during the summer most piers are closed to in water activities
to avoid disturbing fishermen.
Dive centers in Pensacola, FL. have reported numerous sightings of guitarfish
adjacent to the artificial reefs created by dropping bridge spans off the coast.
Other diving locations submitted by readers:
Reef Sharks and Rays of the World. Scott W. Michael. Sea Challengers.
and Rays - Elasmobranch Guide of the World. Ralf M. Hennemann. IKAN.