Common Name: Shovelnose Guitarfish
Scientific Name: Rhinobatos productus
Species: R. productus
Rhinobatos productus, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this scientific name? A rhino right, well this animal is so unlike a rhino….It’s actually a Shovel Guitarfish. This fish has a body shaped like a guitar and its length can reach up to 170 cm. When it’s first born its length is about 15-23 cm. The Shovelnose Guitarfish has an olive to sandy brown color with vague darker splotches. These colors help the fish blend in with the ocean floor, so that other fish won’t notice it, so that the Shovelnose Guitarfish can sneak up on its food. It also has spiracles on top of their heads in which they pump water. This fish has a thick tail and a moderately large caudal fin without a distinct lower tube. Some identifying characteristics are its long pointed snout and single row of thorns around the eyes that extends along the back and tail.
Northern California to the Gulf of California is where this fish lives. They usually spend their time in sand or mud bottoms of bays, sea grass beds, estuaries, and near rocky reefs. They do well in that ecosystem because they like to lay buried in the sand and that’s where they go if they need to hide or get away from any of its predators. That’s pretty interesting! The order of the Shovelnose Guitarfish contains about 47 to 50 species arranged in three families. The population of the Shovelnose Guitarfish is assessed as near threatened. The fishing in Baja California has severely declined after greatly increased effort in the mid to late 1990’s and its abundance has almost surely declined in this region as a result of fishing pressure. However it is “Least Concern” in the USA where only a limited sporadic fishing exists in southern California oceans. The Shovelnose Guitarfish usually eats benthic invertebrates (organism with no backbone) including polychaete worms, clams, amphipods, crabs and shrimp. The adult fish also eat some bony fishes. This fish competes with thornbacks, bat rays, and benthic flatfish for food. They are all found in similar habitats and use similar food resources.
Predators of the Shovelnose Guitarfish are finfish, sharks, and stingrays. They are all in family Triakidae. This fish evades being eaten by hiding itself in the sand or mud bottoms of the ocean. They also have their thorns on their back that help them from being eaten. Rhinobatos productus does not so much look like a rhino as you may think. Something that stood out, as I was researching the Shovelnose Guitarfish is that you can actually eat it! And most people say that it is actually quite tasty! Something that I have learned about this fish is that people commonly mistake it for the Speckled and Banded Guitarfish. Maybe sometime soon, I could eat this fish, or learn how to scuba dive so I can go and see this fish under the sea!!
Author: McKenna V.
Sources: "Shovelnose Guitarfish Information and pictures." Shark pictures and information about sharks and rays. 12 Feb. 2009 http://www.elasmodiver.com/Shovelnose%20Guitarfish.htm. "Guitarfish -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 12 Feb. 2009 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/249029/guitarfish. Agnes, Michael E. Webster's New Pocket American Dictionary. Chicago: Webster's New World, 2004. 12 Feb. 2009 . "Shovelnose guitarfish -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 12 Feb. 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shovelnosed_guitarfish.
Picture Credit: La Jolla Shores, San Diego, California