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First complete description of the dark-mouth skate Raja arctowskii Dollo, 1904 from Antarctic waters, assigned to the genus Bathyraja (Elasmobranchii, Rajiformes, Arhynchobatidae)

Abstract

The dark-mouth skate, Raja arctowskii Dollo, 1904 from Antarctic waters is an extraordinary case in skate taxonomy. For more than 100 years, this species has been known only from three empty egg capsules and the species as such has remained undescribed due to the lack of specimens that could be assigned to Dollo’s small capsules. Since trawled egg capsules and an egg capsule containing a near-term embryo became available, it finally was possible to connect specimens with the empty egg capsules and completely describe Dollo’s R. arctowskii with detailed external morphology, skeletal features, clasper morphology, and clasper skeleton and assign it to the genus Bathyraja Ishiyama, 1958a. Bathyraja arctowskii is one of the smallest known species of Bathyraja, attaining only a 61 cm total length (TL). It is characterized by an at least partly, usually completely medium to dark grayish pigmented mouth cavity, as well as the often dark underside of the nasal curtain from very small juvenile stages onwards. It further differs from most congeners in Antarctic and Subantarctic waters in the absence of thorns on the dorsal disc. It appears to be a wide-ranging, circumantarctic species found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean sectors of the Southern Ocean. The species seems to be locally common at least in the Atlantic sector, with up to 94 juvenile to subadult specimens caught in one single haul.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are very grateful to Bernard Séret (ICHTYO CONSULT) for morphometrics, meristics, and description notes of the MNHN specimen and Jonathan Pfliger, Guy Duhamel, and Zouhaira Gabsi (MNHN) for photographs and radiographs of this specimen, as well as basic measurements and photographs of several egg capsules of B. murrayi. Guy Duhamel also kindly granted permission to use his fresh photograph of the MNHN specimen in the present publication. The authors are also very grateful to Olivier Pauwels (IRSNB) for kindly granting permission to use photographs of the syntype egg capsule IRSNB 25 in the present publication. Lei Yang (FLMNH) generated the molecular data used in the study. The authors further would like to thank Hajime Ishihara (W&I Associates Co. Ltd., Japan) for providing an image of an egg capsule and embryo of B. murrayi and granting permission to use this photograph in the present publication; Andrew Stewart, and Carl Struthers (NMNZ) for detailed data, photographs, and tissue samples of specimens at NMNZ; Will White (CSIRO) for sending tissue samples of Bathyraja cf. eatonii, B. eatonii, B. irrasa, B. maccaini, and B. murrayi; and Jürgen Pollerspöck (Shark-References) for providing references. The second author is also very grateful to Ralf Thiel (ZMH) for granting access to and loan of specimens in the ZMH collection for examinations and access to photo- and radiography facilities at ZMH, as well as for approving dissections of disintegrated specimens, and Irina Eidus (ZMH) for her help with the radiography, collection database and cards, as well as for providing photographs of several specimens. The authors are grateful to journal editors and reviewers of the manuscript for their helpful comments.

Funding

This work was supported (in part) by the NZ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. Core Funded Coasts & Oceans Programme 2: Biological Resources subcontract for fundamental knowledge of marine fish biodiversity with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The collection of sequence data was supported with an award from the U.S. NSF Foundation to GJPN, DEB 01132229.

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MFWS and SW conceived and designed research, conducted examinations, and wrote the first draft of the manuscript, GJPN conducted molecular analyses and contributed parts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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This article is a contribution to the Topical Collection Systematics and Biodiversity of Indian Ocean Sharks, Rays, and Chimaeras (Chondrichthyes)

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Stehmann, M.F.W., Weigmann, S. & Naylor, G.J.P. First complete description of the dark-mouth skate Raja arctowskii Dollo, 1904 from Antarctic waters, assigned to the genus Bathyraja (Elasmobranchii, Rajiformes, Arhynchobatidae). Mar. Biodivers. 51, 18 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-020-01124-1

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Keywords

  • Systematics
  • Taxonomy
  • Morphology
  • DNA analysis
  • Egg capsules
  • Southern Ocean