Soft Skate

Malacoraja spinacidermis

Male soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view
Male soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view
Male soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) ventral view
Male soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) ventral view
Female soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view
Female soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view
Female soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) ventral view
Female soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) ventral view

Description

As suggested by its name, the soft skate is recognizable by the lack of large, conspicuous thorn-like spines behind its shoulders and on the posterior part of its tail; and by the relatively smooth upper surface of the disc, which is marked only by one or two large spines in front of the eyes, one near the inner margin of the spiracle, and two in the midline of the shoulder region (with a smaller one on either side of the second spine). The anterior contour of the disc is wedge-shaped, and the posterior margins of the disc are roughened with small prickles. The lower surface of the disc is smooth, whereas the lower surface of the tail (with the exception of the extreme tip) is densely prickled. There is also a short row of dorsal spines extending from near the tips of the pelvics to approximately one third the distance to the first dorsal fin. The two dorsal fins are confluent; the caudal fin is small; and the pelvics have a deep notch, around which they are strongly scalloped. The teeth of the soft skate are conical with low cusps. Colouration on both the upper and lower surfaces is gray with a brown tint, except for on each side of the rostral ridge where the skin is translucent, and on the lower surface of the posterior half of the pectorals, where there are a large number of darkish gray spots.

Size

The size of the largest known specimen from Canadian waters - and immature male - is 44 cm TL, suggesting that adult size in this population is much larger.

Range

In the Canadian Atlantic area, the soft skate was first described from individuals taken on the continental shelf, south of Nova Scotia. Since then northward and eastward the range of the soft skate in the western North Atlantic has been extended from infrequent captures on the continental slope off Baffin Island to the northeast NewFoundland Slope and the southwest Grand Bank. The soft skate is also reported to occur in the eastern North Atlantic Ocean off the Faroe Islands and off of northwest Africa .

Habitat

The soft skate is a deepwater species. Specimens from the Canadian Atlantic area were captured at depths of 710 - 750 m.

Female young of the year (YOY) soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view
Female young of the year (YOY) soft skate (Malacoraja spinacidermis) dorsal view

Life History

Unknown

Diet

The diet of the soft skate consists entirely of crustaceans

Reproduction

Oviparous.