If you're from the Sarasota, Florida (USA) area, you might have purchased Melissa's first publication Sharks, Skates and Rays of Sarasota Bay, in which she talks about this particular animal (one that Jeffrey Carrier asked Melissa to cover).
So just who is this critter? Why, clearnose skates (Raja eglanteria), of course. A member of the only skate family, Rajidae, they are considered the most common skate in their range; they are found in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as all along the eastern United States shores. They have a single row of thorns along its backside, from the shoulders to the tail; usually a shade of brown or gray with many darker round spots/bars present.
They have a max disc width of 0.48 m (1.6 ft) and a max length 0.84 m (2.8 ft). They are a warm season visitor, meaning as the snow birds flock to Sarasota, the clearnose skates say, "We outta here!" and head to offshore waters during these colder months. (Lucky them, they don't have to deal with the sudden increase in traffic.) But don't think they are shy of cold water- they've been caught in waters as low as 6.3°C (43.3°F) to 27°C (80.6°F). That's some chilly water... no wonder they head over to the warmer currents! They still find their delectable food wherever they go, though: this includes, but is not limited to, molluscs, shrimp, crabs, and small fish. Yummy.
In Florida, since they are viviparous with yolk-sac, they lay their eggs between December and May (so, if you celebrate Easter, don't pick up these eggs). One female clearnose skate can lay up to 66 eggs in one season (not in one area, though). Incubation period is unknown, but is thought to last at least three months.
They are a non-aggressive animal that poses little threat to humans. Yet, they do
have predators, such as the grey nurse shark (aka sand tiger shark).
Their IUCN status sees no immediate threat and assesses them as Least Concern (LC).
have you seen clearnose skates?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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