Family : Skates ; Usually on sandy or gravelly bottoms from shoal waters to 90 m depth. Mostly inactive during daylight, but active under dark conditions. Oviparous . Distinct pairing with embrace. Young may tend to follow large objects, such as their mother . Eggs are oblong capsules with stiff pointed horns at the corners deposited in sandy or muddy flats. Egg capsules are 4.6-6.3 cm long and 2.7-4.8 cm wide, about 10-35 eggs are laid annually. Possesses an electric organ located in the tail region. Electric organ discharge (EOD) activity is intermittent  and seemed more frequent during dark periods. The individual EOD of this species is monophasic, head-negative, and lasts 70 ms.
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Danish:
Common Names in Dutch:
Common Names in English:
common skate, Little common skate, little skate, Little summer skate, Raie-Chardon, summer skate
Common Names in French:
Raie Guitare, Raie H, raie hérisson, Raie-H, raie-hÃ©risson, Raie-hérisson
Common Names in Mandarin Chinese:
Common Names in Polish:
Common Names in Portuguese:
Common Names in Rumanian:
Common Names in Swedish:
Species Leucoraja erinacea
Distinctive Features: The little skate has a very rounded
with a blunt
nose. The two dorsal fins are located close together
on the tail. The tail length for newly hatched young is about 1.1
times the length
of the body (from snout to cloaca
) but decreases
as they reach adulthood to about 0.85 to 0.95 the length of the body.
The little skate possesses an electrosensory known as ampullae of Lorenzini. This organ is found on the head and consists of many tiny gel filled canals. This organ allows it to detect weak electric fields produced by its prey . It is also believed that this organ might function like a compass with the earth's magnetic field. This species also has electric organs on the tail that consists of electrocytes but it produces weak electric fields. It is suspected that these electric organs are used more for conspecific communication and possibly mate location.
There has been one unusual specimen found near Fisher's Island, NY that showed hermaphroditism , which is extremely rare among elasmobranch fishes . The left side of the body contained large well-developed testis , vas deferens, and functional clasper while the right side had tiny/abortive clasper, adolescent ovary, shell gland , and a mature oviduct .
Dentition: The teeth of the little skate consist of about 38 to 66 series on jaw plates . The teeth are round shaped with faint transverse cutting edges . They use the teeth for grinding food between the two plates.
Denticles : When it is fully-grown, they are relatively small and no thorny spines are present along the midline of the back (unlike the young of this species). Females have spines scattered on the upper surface that are prominent on the head, snout, shoulders , and sides of the tail. Typically, spines are not found on the midline, back of the shoulder girdle but there have been exceptions to this generalization. Males tend to have fewer spines than the females since males lose most of the thorns from the inner parts of the pectorals and some from the mid-dorsal ridge as they mature. The spines that are located on the tail, shoulder, and on either side of the ridge of the back are quite strong in both sexes.
The dorsal surface ranges from grayish to dark brown or clouded light and dark brown. The edges of the pectoral fins are paler. There are usually small round darker spots found on the dorsal surface. The ventral surface is white or grayish. The tail has either irregular dusky blotches or dark gray lower surface.
The little skate commonly reach 16 to 20 inches (40.6-50.8 cm) long but a maximum size of 21 inches (54 cm) has been recorded. The disc is about 1.2 times as wide as it is long. At 16 to 17 inches (40.6-43.2 cm), they weigh about 3/4 to 1 pound (0.34-0.45 kg ) and can weigh from 1 1/3 to 2 pounds (0.59-0.91 kg) at 18 inches long. Little skates that are 8 inches (20 cm) long may be 1 to 1 1/2 years old, 11 3/4 to 12 inches (30 cm) 2-3 years, 15 3/4 to 16 inches (40 cm) 3 to 4 years, 19 3/4 to 20 inches (50cm) 6 to 8 years old. The mortality rate for this species seems to be very high after five years since very few that have been captured are longer than 18 to 19 inches. Females reach sexual maturity at 12 1/2 to 17 inches (32-43 cm), while males reach it at about 14 to 17 1/4 inches (35.5-43.8 cm) long.
This species is typically found on sandy or gravely bottoms from shallow waters to 295.28 feet (90 m ) deep. They are most active during daylight hours. The little skate can tolerate a wide range of temperatures , from 89.6ºF (32ºC) to 158ºF (70ºC). The little skate can tolerate salinity ranges of 27 0/00 to 33.8 0/00 but their optimal range is 29 0/00 to 33 0/00. There are no reports of this species being found in freshwater and ones that have been placed in freshwater show physiological problems. The little skate does not appear to have large-scale migrations but they do move to shallower water during the summer and move to deeper water in fall or early winter.
Typically found in water with a depth of 0 to -5,095 meters (0 to -16,716 feet).
from shallow shoal waters to 90 m
depth, usually on
sandy or gravelly substrates. This species reaches
a maximum size
of 60 cm total length (TL
) (Johnson 1979). Males and females mature
at 35?50 cm TL and size at birth is 9.3?10.2 cm TL (McEachran 2002,
Richards et al.
1963). Females produce
after a gestation period
of 9?12 months (Richards et al.
1963, Johnson 1979).
Little Skates make no extensive migrations, although where it occurs inshore the species moves onshore and offshore with seasonal temperature changes (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002). Common prey items include hermit and other crabs, shrimps, worms, amphipods , ascidians (sea squirts), bivalve mollusks, squid, small fishes , and even some copepods (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002). .
List of Habitats:
- 9 Marine Neritic
- 9.3 Marine Neritic - Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel
- 9.4 Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
- 9.5 Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud [more info]
Common prey items include hermit and other crabs, shrimps, worms, amphipods , ascidians (sea squirts), bivalve mollusks, squid, small fishes , and even some copepods .
Little skates are oviparous (egg layers). The male uses two long claspers , along the pelvic fins, to aid in transmitting sperm . They are known to copulate many times throughout the year and frequently. There seems to be a higher frequency of pregnant little skates from October to December and April to May while there is a low frequency from August to September and February to March. Eggs are laid throughout the year but appear to be highest from October to January and June to July. The egg capsule is amber or golden yellow when they are first laid. The oblong capsules have stiff pointed horns at the corners and are either deposited on sandy or muddy flats or attached to seaweed. The egg capsules are 1.8-2.5 inches (4.6-6.3 cm) long and 1-2 inches (2.7-4.8 cm) wide, and the female lays about 10-35 eggs annually. Yolk within the egg capsule contains all of the organic materials necessary for development until hatching . It takes about 5 to 6 months for the young to hatch under aquarium conditions. It is expected to be longer in nature, especially during autumn and early winter because of cooler temperatures . The young skates emerge from the capsule through a transverse opening at the edge with the longer pair of horns. The length of the young when hatched is about 3 ¾ to 4 inches (10 cm), its abdomen is still swollen with yolk, and the whiplash-like extension on the tail disappears within a few days. The whiplash-like embryo tail is believed to be used for water circulation in the capsule. After the young skates have hatched, the empty black capsules wash ashore.
Predators of the little skate include sharks (especially the sandbar shark ), other skates (including the winter skate), and gray seals.
The little skate is plagued by a variety of parasites. Protozoan parasites include Caliperia brevipes, Haemogregarina delagei, and Trypanosoma rajae. Chloromyxum leydigi and Leptotheca agilis are members of Myxosporida parasites. Pseudanisakis tricupola is the only species of nematodes to parasitize them. Eudactylina corrugata and Lernaeopodina longimana are members of Copepoda that have been found as well.
Leucoraja erinacea • Megathopomima magnifica • Megathopomima magnifica Balthasar • Megathopomima magnifica BALTHASAR, 1939 • Raia erinacea Mitchill • Raja erinacea Mitchill • Raja erinaceus • Raja erinaceus Mitchill
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: Data last modified by FishBase 30-Sep-1999
Sympatric to the Winter Skate (Leucoraja ocellata), immature Little Skates are often confused with immature Winter Skates (especially females). However, the probability of misidentification decreases with skate size as they mature . Skates originally identified as little skate in the Gulf of St . Lawrence were later confirmed as winter skate..
While the winter skate (Leucoraja ocellata) typically has oscillated spots, individuals that lack these spots are often confused with little skates.
Members of the genus Leucoraja
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 17 species and subspecies in this genus:
L. caribbaea (Maya Skate) · L. circularis (Cuckoo Ray) · L. compagnoi (Tiger-Tail Skate) · L. erinacea (Little Summer Skate) · L. fullonica (Shagreen Ray) · L. garmani (Rosette River Stingray) · L. garmani garmani (Freckled Skate) · L. garmani virginica (Leopard Skate) · L. lentiginosa (Speckled Skate) · L. leucosticta (Whitedappled Skate) · L. melitensis (Maltese Skate Or Ray) · L. naevus (Butterfly Skate) · L. ocellata (Winter Big Skate) · L. pristispina (Sawback Skate) · L. virginica (Virginia Skate) · L. wallacei (Yellospotted Skate) · L. yucatanensis (Yucatan Whiteskate)
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- Bigelow, H.B. and Schroeder, W.C. 1953. Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. Fisheries Bulletin 54: 1-577.
- Collette, B. and Klein-MacPhee, G. (eds). 2002. Bigelow and Schroeder?s fishes of the Gulf of Maine. 3rd edition. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington DC, USA.
- Fish, M.P. and W.H. Mowbray (1970). Sounds of Western North Atlantic fishes. A reference file of biological underwater sounds. The John Hopkins Press, Baltimor.
- Frisk, M.G., Miller, T.J. and Fogarty, M.J. 2001. Estimation of biological parameters in elasmobranch fishes: a comparative life history study. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 58: 969-981.
- Frisk, M.G., Miller, T.J., and Fogarty, M.J. 2002. The population dynamics of little skate Leucoraja erinacea, winter skate Leucoraja ocellata, and barndoor skate Dipturus laevis: predicting exploitation limits using matrix analyses. ICES Journal of Marine Science 59: 576-586.
- Frisk, M.G., and Miller, T.J. 2006. Age, growth, and latitudinal patterns of two Rajidae species in the northwestern Atlantic: little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) and winter skate (Leucoraja ocellata). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 63: 1078-1091.
- IUCN. 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2009.2). Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 3 November 2009).
- Johnson, G.F. 1979. The biology of the little skate, Raja erinacea, in Block Island Sound, Rhode Island. Unpublished MA Thesis. University of Rhode Island Kingston.
- McEachran, J.D. 2002.. Skates: family Rajidae. In: In: B.B. Collette and G. Klein-MacPhee, (eds) (eds), Bigelow and Schroeder?s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine., Smithsonian Institution Press,, Washington.
- McEachran, John D. / Collette, Bruce B., and Grace Klein-MacPhee, eds. 2002. Skates: Family Rajidae. Bigelow and Schroeder's Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, Third Edition. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, DC, USA. 60-75. ISBN: 1-56098-951-3.
- McEachran, John D., and Katherine A. Dunn 1998. Phylogenetic Analysis of Skates, a Morphologically Conservative Clade of Elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Copeia, vol. 1998, no. 2. 271-290.
- Michalopoulos, C. 1990. A field study on the ecology and behavior of the winter skate (Raja ocellata) and littleskate (Raja erinacea) off outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts. M.Sc. Thesis, Southeastern Massachusetts University,.
- NEFMC (New England Fishery Management Council). 2001. 2000 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Report for the Northeast Skate Complex. Newburyport, MA, USA.
- NEFSC (Northeast Fisheries Science Center). 2000. 30th Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop. NEFSC, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026, USA.
- Packer, D.B., Zetlin, C.A. and Vitaliano, J.J. 2003. Thorny skate, Amblyraja radiata, Life History and Habitat Characteristics. NOAA Technical Report NMFS-NE.
- Richards, S.W., Merriman, D. and Calhoun, L.H. 1963. Studies on the marine resources of southern New England. IX. The biology of the little skate Raja erinacea Mitchill. Bulletin Bingham Oceanography 18(3): 5-68.
- Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray (1986). A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 354 p.
- Waring, G.T. 1984.. Age, growth, and mortality of the little skate off the northeast coast of the United States. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 113: 314?321.
- Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 15, 2012.
- FishBase. Release date: January 5, 2010
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Accessed February 29, 2008. http://www.gbif.org Mediated distribution data from 2 providers.
- IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. . Downloaded on January 28, 2012.
- Little, Kimberly. Florida Museum of Natural History
- McEachran, John (from FishBase).
- Ruggiero M., Gordon D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Nicolson D. (2011). The Catalogue of Life Taxonomic Classification, Edition 2, Part A. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). DVD; Species 2000: Reading, UK.
- Sulikowski, J., Kulka, D.W. & Gedamke, T. 2009. Leucoraja erinacea. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloadedon 01February2012.
Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 29, 2008:
- Canadian Museum of Nature: Canadian Museum of Nature Fish Collection
- Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates: Fish Collection
- FishBase: FishBase DiGIR Provider - Philippine Server
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: A Biological Survey of the Waters of Woods Hole and Vacinity
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Atlantic Reference Centre (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Bay of Fundy Species List (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Canadian Museum of Nature - Fish Collection (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: DFO Maritimes Research Vessel Trawl Surveys Fish Observations (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: ECNASAP - East Coast North America Strategic Assessment (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Electronic Atlas of Ichthyoplankton on the Scotian Shelf of North America (OBIS Canada)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Gulf of Maine Bottom Trawl Survey Data (NEFSC,NMFS,NOAA)(USOBIS)
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History - Marine Birds, Mammals, and Fishes (OBIS Canada)
- Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University: MCZ Fish Collection
- Royal Ontario Museum: Fish specimens
- University of Kansas Biodiversity Research Center: Fish Collection
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 130796
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Fis-131898
- Fishbase Species ID: 2557
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 14100355
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 564130
- IUCN ID: 219343
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: AFDFD01040
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 115289
- Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray (1986). A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 354 p. [back]
- Bratton, B.O. and L.J. Ayres (1987). Observations on the electric organ discharge of two skate species (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae) and its relationship to behavior. Environ. Biol. Fish. 220:241-254. [back]
- Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen (1966). Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p. [back]
- Bor, P. (2002). Egg-capsules of sharks and skates. www.rajidae.tmfweb.nl/rogtabel.html [back]
- Moller, P. (1995). Electric fishes: history and behavior. Chapman & Hall, London. 584 p. [back]
- Mortensen, F.J. and R.H. Whitaker (1973). Electric discharge in free-swimming female winter skates (Raja ocellata). Am. Zool. 13:1266. [back]
- Mean = -212.340 meters (-696.654 feet), Standard Deviation = 517.350 based on 8,310 observations. Ocean depth information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
- Sulikowski, J., Kulka, D.W. & Gedamke, T. 2009. Leucoraja erinacea. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 February 2012. [back]