Atlantic Torpedo

Torpedo nobiliana

Description

The Atlantic torpedo is easily recognizable from other species of batoid inhabiting the northwest Atlantic due to its subcircular, disc-shaped body formed partially by its pectorals which attach anteriorly to either side of the head, extending beyond the eyes. Other distinguishing characteristics include its stout tail, which is either as long as or shorter than its body; and its distinct head, which contains powerful electric organs visible as large, kidney-shaped patches on sides of head that are capable of producing extremely painful shocks. The Atlantic torpedo has a small mouth filled with small, rounded teeth, with some having sharp cusps; small, almost absent, eyes; and skin that is naked, soft, and loose. The dorsal (x 2) and caudal fins of the Atlantic torpedo are well-developed, with the first dorsal larger than the second and located partially posterior to the pelvic fins. Coloration varies from uniform (or slightly spotted) dark-chocolate brown to nearly slate-gray or black on the dorsal surface, with the ventral surface being white edged with light brown.

Size

This batoid can reach a total length of approximately 1.8 m (6').

Range

The Atlantic torpedo occurs on both side of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the northwest Atlantic, it ranges from Nova Scotia south to Florida and the northern Gulf of Mexico. In the eastern Atlantic, it ranges from northern Scotland to tropical West Africa, including the Mediterranean. This species is not common in the Canadian Atlantic as it is primarily a warmer water species; however, strays are occasionally captured, especially during the summer months.

Habitat

Like most batoids, the Atlantic torpedo is a bottom-dwelling fish inhabiting muddy or sandy bottom ecosystems, usually in shallow water areas but reaching depths of 60 fathoms. Individuals often lie partially buried in the substrate.

Life History

Unknown

Diet

The Atlantic torpedo has a diet consisting of crustaceans, mollusks, worms, as well as other invertebrates and fishes.

Reproduction

This batoid is ovoviviparous, bearing live young.

Interaction with people

The electric organs of the Atlantic torpedo are capable of producing 220 volts of electricity, partially due to the large size attained by this species. However, the Atlantic torpedo has not been known to seriously injure humans in its natural environment.

Atlantic torpedo (Torpedo nobiliana) dorsal view
Atlantic torpedo (Torpedo nobiliana) dorsal view
Atlantic torpedo (Torpedo nobiliana) ventral view
Atlantic torpedo (Torpedo nobiliana) ventral view
An Atlantic torpedo ray (Torpedo nobiliana) (foreground) photographed underwater off the coast of Nova Scotia
An Atlantic torpedo ray (Torpedo nobiliana) (foreground) photographed underwater off the coast of Nova Scotia