Not just Shark
Pictures: Elasmodiver contains photos of sharks, skates, rays, and
chimaera's from around the world. Elasmodiver began as a simple web
based shark field guide to help divers find the best places to
encounter the different species of sharks and rays that live in
shallow water but it has slowly evolved into a much larger project
containing information on all aspects of shark diving and shark
There are now
more than 5000 shark pictures and sections on shark evolution,
biology, and conservation. There is a large library of reviewed
shark books, a constantly updated shark taxonomy page, a monster
list of shark links, and deeper in the site there are numerous
articles and stories about shark encounters. Elasmodiver is now so
difficult to check for updates, that new information and pictures
are listed on an Elasmodiver Updates Page that can be accessed here:
flattened body. Pointed, V shaped snout with mildly concave leading edges.
Pectoral fin tips pointed. Row of small spines from last third of back until
first dorsal fin on tail. Dorsum mottled brown to grey with smaller pale spots.
Prominent dark circle (eye) on each pectoral fin with dark centres. Two dark
bands curve across snout. Ventrum pale. Eyes small.
length 2.4 meters but usually .9 to 1.8 meters.
Habitat: Big skates are sometimes
seen on low lying kelp but are generally found onsand and mud bottoms from
inter-tidal to 120m. Inhabits coastal areas, estuaries, bays and continental
Abundance and distribution:
seen lying motionless on or under sand but occasionally seen actively foraging
over soft bottoms.
Lays distinctively large (20 - 25cm) egg capsules in pairs on substrate.
Capsules may contain up to 8 skate embrios. Eggs hatch at around nine months.
Big skate egg cases from Madrona Point,
In 2006-7 there was a field
of perhaps a few hundred to a thousand or more big skate egg capsules in 40 to 80 feet of
water off the shoreline at Madrona point near Parksville, Vancouver Island. No
animals were encountered. It has been suggested to us by Peter Bor (shark and
skate egg case specialist) that the egg cases were probably deposited in August and are likely to hatch some time in November after a 9 to 15 month
incubation period! The majority of the eggs were found at 45 to 60 feet.
The egg capsules have
now gone but the site is being monitored to ascertain if there is a multi year
cycle after which the adult skates will return to the same site.
occasionally see Big skate moving in the shallows just under the surface.
lagoon and Madrona Point, Vancouver Island, Canada.
Similar species: Longnose
skate - Raja rhina distinguished by more pointed snout and pale centers
of occeli, California skate - Raja inornata, and
Starry skate - Raja
Reaction to divers: Very
docile. Remains motionless unless molested. Try not to hover directly above the
body as this may cause it to bolt. I have fanned the silt off of one Big skate's
back and it still patiently remained while I took its picture.
After many cold and murky dives at likely spots on Southern Vancouver Island I
finally found this skate in 35ft of water at low tide off of Esquimalt lagoon
about 15mins Southwest of Victoria. Park anywhere along the beach. This bay has
a very shallow incline so to get to this depth from shore requires about a 20
minute kick underwater following a SW compass heading as there are no visible
landmarks under water at all. Probably the best area is just beyond the low
lying kelp where the bottom is clearly visible. This will be at about 35 to 45ft
depending on the tide. There is almost nothing else to see in this environment
except for the occasional crab and flounder. If you're lucky you may get buzzed
by a seal or two.
The closest place to get air is at Wilson Diving
on Sooke Rd about a 5 minute drive from the lagoon.
Other diving locations:
Sightings submitted by Doug Graham from Redmond WA:
I have seen two Big skates so far this year. The
first time was July 1st at Clallam Bay Washington at about 8:00pm in about 25-30
feet of water. The bottom was sandy without any other life with in 20-30 feet. I
was solo diving and had no idea what I was looking at. It was a big one. I would
guess close to 120cm or bigger. It slowly got off the bottom and glided around
towards the deeper water and out of sight. The second time was last night (July
29th) at Alki Pipeline in Seattle. Time was around 7:30pm in about 15-20 feet of
water. It was in some low lying kelp on a sandy bottom.
Coastal Fish Identification, California to Alaska. - Paul Humann - New World
Fishes of Canada - J.L.Hart. Fisheries Research board of Canada. Ottawa
Fishes of the Pacific North West - Andy Lamb and Phil Edgell - Harbour