Gorgona guitarfish, white-spotted guitar shark.
Long, pointed snout.
Pectoral fin posterior margins
convex. Body behind pectoral fins tapers into a thick tail topped by two well
developed dorsal fins of roughly equal size. Caudal fin triangular with
indistinct lower lobe. Dorsal color
variable but mostly pale or sandy brown/grey with indistinct large darker
blotches and scattered small white spots sometimes ringed in dark brown. Ventrum pale
with dark or dusky margin on pectorals, snout and tip of tail. Bold orange-yellow coloration usually
visible in front of eyes. Rear border of spiracles have two visible folds.
waters from 15-70m. On sandy bottoms
often adjacent to rocky reefs.
and distribution: Restricted to
the Eastern Pacific from Western Costa Rica to Northern Peru. Considered
uncommon but relatively abundant around Coiba Island in Panama.
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 gorgona guitarfish (Rhinobatos prahli) has
not yet been evaluated by the IUCN. However, Surveys need to better document the
distribution and abundance of the species, and an assessment of catches needs to
be made for any fishing activities which potentially take this species,
including shrimp trawl fisheries operating off Panama and elsewhere within its
range. The type locality is part of the Gorgona National Natural Park in
Colombia and this should afford the species some level of protection.
Isla de Coiba, Panama.
species: The gorgona guitarfish
shares its range with four other species of similar shape. All can
be distinguished by body coloration as no other species have small white spots.
to divers: Generally easy to approach with careful slow movements. May
slowly move away or bolt upon very close
The easiest place to find gorgona guitarfish is at Coiba Island in Panama. A
number of dive shops run single or multi day trips to the island from the
village of Santa Catalina.
Scuba Coiba is a popular choice.
The island itself is a protected
park with no hotels
or restaurants but it is possible to stay in a basic dormitory at the ranger station.
The best time of year to find this and other species of guitarfish at Coiba is
during February and March when deep water upwellings flush the island with very
cold water. During other times, lucky divers may still be able to see the
occasional guitarfish at deeper dive sites (30m+) below the thermocline.