Thornback ray

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This article is about the species of fish in the Atlantic Ocean. For other fish with similar names, see Thornback.
Thornback ray
Raja clavata (juv).jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Rajiformes
Family: Rajidae
Genus: Raja
Species: R. clavata
Binomial name
Raja clavata
Linnaeus, 1758

The thornback ray (Raja clavata) or thornback skate is a species of fish in the Rajidae family. It is found in coastal waters of Europe and the Atlantic coast of Africa, possibly as far south as Namibia and even South Africa. Its natural habitats are open seas and shallow seas. It is sometimes seen trapped in large estuarine pools at low tide.


The thornback ray is probably one of the most common rays encountered by divers. Like all rays, it has a flattened body with broad, wing-like pectoral fins. The body is kite-shaped with a long, thorny tail. The back is covered in numerous thorny spines, as is the underside in older females.[1] Adult fish can grow to 1 m (3.3 ft) in length, although most are less than 85 cm (33.67 in). This ray can weigh from 4.5 to 8.75 lb (2 to 4 kg).[2]

In sexually mature fish, some of the spines are thickened with button-like bases (known as bucklers). These are particularly well developed on the tails and backs of sexually mature females. Their colours vary from light brown to grey with darker blotches and numerous small darker spots and yellow patches. Sometimes the yellow patches are surrounded by small dark spots. The underside is creamy-white with a greyish margin.When threatened they can appear black.


The thornback ray is usually found on sedimentary seabeds such as mud, sand or gravel at depths between 10 and 60 m. Juvenile fish feed on small crustaceans, particularly amphipods and bottom-living shrimps; adults feed on crabs, shrimps and small fish.


  1. ^ "Morphology" in
  2. ^ Kindersley, Dorling (2001,2005). Animal. New York City: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.  Check date values in: |date= (help)