Undulate ray

Raja undulata

 

Undulate ray (Raja undulata) © Paul Kay

Most fish species have a bony skeleton.  The skeleton of an undulate ray, however, is made of cartilage, like that of the sharks to which it is closely related.

Undulate rays have a vivid pattern of swirling brown stripes and yellow and white spots on their skin, which camouflages them against the sandy seabeds on which they live.  Their rounded, flattened bodies grow up to 1m in length, and they have a thin, whip-like tail that is almost the same length again.  Their backs and tails are spiny for protection from predators (they are harmless to people), and they also have prickly skin on their undersides.

Undulate rays are found in comparatively deep water, from 50-200m depth, and they eat a variety of bottom-dwelling prey including crabs.

Undulate rays produce oblong eggs with pointed horns at the corners, and lay them into the sand, mud or gravel seabed.  Because they lay only a few eggs they are vulnerable to fishing, as it takes a long time for the population to recover when numbers begin to decline.

 

Other common names

Undulate skate

Undulate painted ray

 

European distribution

In British waters, the undulate ray is most common in the English Channel, although its distribution also includes the west coast of England and Wales and most of Ireland. Its wider European range is the eastern Atlantic from Morocco to southern Ireland, and the western Mediterranean.

 

Conservation status/need

  • Undulate Ray FactThis is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority Species).
  • Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

 

Further information

Fishbase

Marine Life Information Network

World Register of Marine Species

JNCC - UK BAP Priority Species and Habitats