, Volume 80, Issue 2-3, pp 111-124
Date: 21 Apr 2007

Biodiversity and systematics of skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajiformes: Rajoidei)

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Abstract

Skates (Rajiformes: Rajoidei) are a highly diverse fish group, comprising more valid species than any other group of cartilaginous fishes. The high degree of endemism exhibited by the skates is somewhat enigmatic given their relatively conserved body morphology and apparent restrictive habitat, e.g. soft bottom substrates. Skates are primarily marine benthic dwellers found from the intertidal down to depths in excess of 3,000 m. They are most diverse at higher latitudes and in deepwater, but are replaced in shallower, warm temperate to tropical waters by stingrays (Myliobatodei). The number of valid skate species has increased exponentially, with more species having been described since 1950 (n = 126) than had been described in the previous 200 years (n = 119). Much of the renaissance in skate systematics has largely been through the efforts of a few individuals who through author–coauthor collaboration have accounted for 78 of the 131 species described since 1948 and for nine of 13 genera named since 1950. Furthermore, detailed regional surveys and accounts of skate biodiversity have also contributed to a better understanding of the diversity of the skates. A checklist of the living valid skate species is presented.