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Looking like a cross between a ray and a shark, the shovelnose guitarfish is named for its long, pointed, shovel-like snout and broad disc, with wide pectoral fins that give the body a distinctive triangular shape. The tail is rather thick with a rounded caudal fin, lacking the lower lobe that most other sharks possess. There are two equally-sized dorsal fins positioned close to the end of the tail. Body color ranges from sandy brown to olive, with a white underside. It reaches a length of up to 54 inches, with females being larger than males.
Guitarfish swim using their sharklike tail rather than flipping their pectoral fins as most rays do.
Distribution and Habitat
The shovelnose guitarfish ranges along the Pacific coast of North America from San Francisco to the southern end of Baja California, as well as in the Gulf of California. It is most commonly found in waters 6-42 feet deep, but has been seen as deep as 300 feet. It prefers sandy or muddy bottoms, but is also occasionally found in sea grass beds, estuaries, and near rocky reefs.
An ambush predator, the shovelnose guitarfish feeds nocturnally on bottom-dwelling organisms such as worms, crabs, clams, and smaller fish.
Males typically move into shallow waters by midsummer, shortly followed by females, for mating. Eggs develop internally, and 6-28 pups are born live after a gestation period of 9-12 months. Pups are on their own immediately after birth. Males reach sexual maturity at about 8 years, females at about 7 years. Lifespan in the wild is 11-16 years.
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This page was last updated on August 01, 2017.