Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 585–589 | Cite as

Seasonal variation in fecundity, egg case viability, gestation, and neonate size for little skates, Leucoraja erinacea, in the Gulf of Maine

  • Brittany D. Palm
  • David M. Koester
  • William B. DriggersIII
  • James A. Sulikowski


Landings of the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, within the territorial waters of the United States are currently regulated by a federal fishery management plan (FMP). For a FMP to be effective, thorough knowledge of a species’ reproductive biology is essential. Currently, little information exists on annual fecundity, egg case viability, gestation length, and neonate total length, for the little skate in the Gulf of Maine. To study these reproductive parameters, mature skates and egg cases were housed in fiberglass tanks with an open seawater system that provided natural, seasonal fluctuations in water temperature. Egg case deposition was highest during summer months with a seasonal peak in June. Of the 324 egg cases laid by seven females (c. 46 eggs per year, per female), 74.1% were viable. Gestation lengths ranged from 22 to 54 weeks throughout the four seasons. Egg cases laid in the fall had the longest gestation times (44.9 weeks, ± 0.13 weeks) and those laid in the spring had the shortest gestation times (24.5 weeks, ± 0.21 weeks). Total lengths of neonates from spring oviposition were statistically the longest (10.74 ± 0.05 cm) when compared to neonates from other seasons; however, egg viability was statistically the lowest for spring when compared seasonally.


Rajidae k-selected Reproduction Fecundity Oviparous 



We thank the University of New England’s Marine Science Center for the use of the wet lab facilities and Marie Quinlan and Jade Heidt for aiding in the maintenance and care of the specimens. MSC contribution number 33.


  1. Andrews RM, Qualls CP, Rose BR (1997) Effects of low temperature on embryonic development of sceloporus lizards. Copeia 4:827–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cox DL, Koob TJ (1993) Predation on elasmobranch eggs. Environ Biol Fish 38:117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fahey DR (1993) Fecundity of the little skate, Raja erinacea, (Rajiformes: Rajidae). MS Thesis, University of MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  4. Frisk MG (2004) Biology, life history, and conservation of elasmobranchs with an emphasis on western Atlantic skates. PhD Thesis, University of MarylandGoogle Scholar
  5. Frisk MG, Miller TJ, Fogarty MJ (2002) The population dynamics of little skate Leucoraja erinacea, winter skate Leucoraja ocellata, and barndoor skate Dipturus laevis: predicting exploitation limits using matrix analyses. ICES J Mar Sci 59:576–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Holden MJ (1977) Elasmobranchs. In: Gulland JA (ed) Fish population dynamics. Wiley, New York, pp 187–215Google Scholar
  7. Johnson GE (1979) The ovarian cycle and fecundity of the little skate, Raja erinacea, in Block Island Sound, Rhode Island. MS Thesis, University of Rhode IslandGoogle Scholar
  8. Lucifora LO, Garcia VB (2004) Gastropod predation on egg cases of skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae) in the southwestern Atlantic: quantification and life history implications. Mar Biol 145:917–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Martel A, Larrivée DH, Klein KR, Himmelman JH (1986) Reproductive cycle and seasonal feeding activity of the neogastropod Buccinum undatum. Mar Biol 92:211–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. McEachran JD (2002) Skates, Family Rajidae. In: Collette B, Klein-MacPhee G (eds) Bigelow and Schroeder’s fishes of the Gulf of Maine, 3rd edn. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, pp 60–75Google Scholar
  11. New England Fishery Management Council (2003) Skate fisheries management plan. New England Fishery Management Council, NewburyportGoogle Scholar
  12. Parent S, Pepin S, Genet JP, Misserey L, Rojas S (2008) Captive breeding of the barndoor skate (Dipturus laevis) at the Montreal Biodome, with comparison notes on two other captive-bred skate species. Zoo Biol 27:143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Perkins FE (1965) Incubation of fall-spawned eggs of the little skate, Raja erinacea, Mitchill. Copeia 1:114–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Richards SW, Merriman D, Calhoun LH (1963) The biology of the little skate, Raja erinacea, Mitchill. Bull Bingham Oceanogr Collect 18:5–67Google Scholar
  15. Shine R, Olsson M (2003) When to be born? Prolonged pregnancy or incubation enhances locomotor performance in neonatal lizards (Scincidae). J Evol Biol 16:823–832PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Waring GT (1980) A preliminary stock assessment of the little skate, Raja erinacea, in the northwest Atlantic. MS Thesis, Bridgewater State CollegeGoogle Scholar
  17. Waring GT (1984) Age, growth, and mortality of the little skate off the northeast coast of the United States. Trans Am Fish Soc 113:314–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Xiang JI, Qui QB, Diong CH (2002) Influence of incubation temperature on hatching success, energy expenditure for embryonic development, and size and morphology of hatchlings in the oriental garden lizard, Calotes versicolor (Agamidae). J Exp Zool 292:649–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brittany D. Palm
    • 1
  • David M. Koester
    • 2
  • William B. DriggersIII
    • 3
  • James A. Sulikowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Science CenterUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy, College of Osteopathic MedicineUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA
  3. 3.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Mississippi LaboratoriesPascagoulaUSA

Personalised recommendations