January 2019 Elasmobranch of the Month: Bowmouth Guitarfish
Bowmouth Guitarfish Image: Andy Murch- Elasmodiver
This beautiful species is easily distinguishable with a flat, broad snout and very high first and second dorsal fins, where the maximum length is approximately 3 meters ( 10 feet). Coloration tends to be grey-brown with dispersed small white spots on the dorsal side and black markings above each pectoral fin. The ventral side is white in coloration. The ridges along the eyes, “back” and “shoulders” are lined with thorns which is thought to be for protection. Also know as a "shark ray."
Found in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean, the bowmouth guitarfish is a coastal (neritic) species inhabiting areas of sandy/muddy bottoms up to depths of 90 meters (300 feet).
This bowmouth guitarfish likes to feed on crustaceans and molluscs which it finds when swimming close to the seafloor.
Unfortunately, this species is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
This species is caught as both bycatch and by target artisanal and commercial fisheries, where their fins are utilized in the shark fin trade. The bowmouth shark is not only vulnerable to fishing pressures, but also habitat destruction and pollution (IUCN, 2019).
IUCN. 2019. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2018-2. Accessed: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41848/68641634#use-trade. Accessed on: 25th January 2019.