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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Ocean Voyager

Range / Habitat

  • Bowmouth guitarfish occurs in the tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific (including the Red Sea) from East Africa to Papua New Guinea, north to Japan and south to Australia.
  • Usually is encountered at depths from about 3 to 65 feet (1-20 m) on sandy or muddy bottoms close to shore or near coral reefs.
  • This ray is usually seen swimming alone.

Physical Characteristics

  • Bowmouth guitarfish has a distinctive shape that resembles a cross between a shark and a ray. However it is actually a member of the ray family.
  • The front of its body is flattened and wide, while the rest of its body and the large dorsal fins create a shark-like appearance. 
  • A broad rounded snout shows a row of spiky thorns on the bony ridges above both eyes, as well as along the back and shoulders. 
  • Tail is longer than the body and pectoral fins are large with a broad base typical of a ray. 
  • Adult can reach a length of approximately 9.8 feet (300 cm) and a maximum weight of about 298 lbs. (135 kg).
  • Adult coloration is grayish-brown in color with white spots on the dorsal fins and darker spots on the head and shoulders.  
  • Juvenile is brown to bluish-grey with large white spots, partial eye-spots on the pectoral fins and black spots between the eyes.

Diet / Feeding

  • Feeds primarily on benthic crustaceans and mollusks such as shrimp, crabs, and clams.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Bowmouth guitarfish is ovoviviparous, meaning it produces eggs that hatch within the mother’s body and the young are born alive.
  • The female usually gives birth to four young, each about 18 inches (45 cm) long.

Conservation Status

  • “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Bowmouth guitarfish is often the bycatch of shrimp fishermen who consider it to be a nuisance because its spiky head makes it difficult to handle, and can damage their nets; however, the high value of the fins creates a significant incentive to retain an accidently caught bowmouth guitarfish.
  • This species is marketed commercially for human consumption in the western Pacific, though only the fins are eaten.
  • Habitat destruction and pollution are thought to pose a significant threat.
  • A row of large spines present above the eye, on the center of the nape and on the shoulder has a defensive function and can be used for butting. 
  • Its jaws are heavily ridged, with crushing teeth in undulating rows.
  • Also called a “shark ray.”

Reef Fish Identification. Allen, G.; Steene, R.; Humann, P. and Deloach, N., pg. 455
Sharks and Rays, Elasmobranch Guide of the World. Hennemann, R. M., pg. 210