They are distinguished from other rays by their flattened body shape and large, paddle-shaped pectoral fins, which are used for propulsion. They can grow up to 1.5 m in length, and have been known to leap out of the water.
Skates lay eggs, while Rays give birth to live young. Skates have a dorsal fin and two pelvic fins, as opposed to Rays with no dorsal fin and one pelvic fin. Skates are smaller in size and tooth, and are often found in deeper water than Rays. Rays often defend themselves with stinging spines, while Skates have thorns on their backs and tails.
They are most often found in deep water at depths beyond nearly 10,000ft (3000m.) They can be spotted on continental shelves and upper slopes. These fish prefer the cold, deep, dark, waters of the ocean. If the water is shallow and warm, it’s likely a Ray and not a Skate.
Most of their diet consists of your typical bottom-dwelling creatures. They typically consume shrimp, crab, clams, oysters, and other invertebrates.
Skates mate at the same location, called a nursing ground, each year. They are oviparous, meaning, they lay eggs. This is a major distinction between them and Rays. They do have electrical organs, but they emit a very weak signal compared to an Electric Ray. They are typically more abundant than Rays and can be found in groups more often.
There are more than 150 species across 17 genera in the family Rajidae. This family belongs to the superorder of Rays called Batoidea.
The family Rajidae actually belongs to the order, Rajiformes, which contains four families, Rajidae being one of them.
- Anacanthobatidae (Smooth Skates)
- Arhynchobatidae (Softnose Skates)
- Gurgesiellidae (Pygmy Skates)
- Rajidae (Skates)
Skates are vulnerable to overfishing and have seen a decline in their overall population due to this.