Often referred to as flattened sharks, skates are the most diverse group amongst all elasmobranch species (which includes sharks and stingrays as well). They make up aprox. 20% and yet I’m sure, while most people know what a shark or stingray is, many think of skate only in reference to roller or ice.
So allow me to illuminate the skate! Unlike the shark and stingray there are no sharp bities or flesh-rotting venomous sting – the skate is a sluggish, benthic predator, meaning it does a lot of floating along the ocean floor and eating what it can find down there.
But this doesn’t mean these animals aren’t tough. Skates are found in deeper, colder water compared to most stingrays, living in places as chilling as the Antarctic waters- and making them the most southerly recorded of all elasmobranch species.
Skates also exist at huge depths of between 30 to 600m, the dark waters meaning they rely on their electric sense for prey detection.
So the skate is your mate, it rarely comes in contact with humans and has little weaponry, consequently making it responsible for no human deaths (according to my google search) compared to the thousands that have been killed by its more fearsome relatives, the stingrays and sharks.
Not only do the adult skates look odd with their kite shaped bodies, but their egg cases are equally unusual. They remind me of batman, dark with pointed ‘ears’ at the corners, no doubt eventually hatching to fight evil on the ocean floor.
So remember skates aren’t just man made machines, they’re endearing, mysterious and odd creatures of the deep as well.
Camperi, M., Tricas, T. C., & Brown, B. R. (2007). From morphology to neural information: the electric sense of the skate. PLoS computational biology, 3(6), e113.
Ebert, D. A., & Davis, C. D. (2007). Descriptions of skate egg cases (Chondrichthyes: Rajiformes: Rajoidei) from the eastern North Pacific. Zootaxa,1393, 1-18.
Orlov, A. M. (1998). The diets and feeding habits of some deep-water benthic skates (Rajidae) in the Pacific waters off the northern Kuril Islands and southeastern Kamchatka. Alaska Fishery Research Bulletin, 5(1), 1-17.