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Notoraja hesperindica sp. nov., a new colorful deep-sea softnose skate (Elasmobranchii, Rajiformes, Arhynchobatidae) and first generic record from the western Indian Ocean


A new deep-sea softnose skate, Notoraja hesperindica, is described based on six specimens caught in 1230–1600 m depths off southern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean. The new species is a medium-sized species of Notoraja Ishiyama, 1958 reaching a total length of at least 539 mm. It is the only Notoraja species known from the western Indian Ocean and differs from most congeners in the intense dark blue-grayish coloration. The only congeners with similarly vibrant coloration are Notoraja azurea McEachran & Last, 2008 from off southern Australia and Notoraja sapphira Séret & Last, 2009 from the Norfolk Ridge (Coral Sea and Tasman Sea), which differ from the new species in a shorter and more obtusely angled snout, a shorter head, a shorter disc, and smaller dorsolateral tail thorns, as well as more predorsal tail and total predorsal vertebrae and more pectoral-fin radials. The large dorsolateral tail thorns also distinguish the new species from most congeners except for the eastern Pacific Notoraja martinezi Concha, Ebert & Long, 2016, which has even larger, randomly patterned dorsolateral tail thorns that give the tail a barbedwire-like appearance. This congener further differs from N. hesperindica sp. nov. in the absence (vs. presence) of malar thornlets, fewer median tail thorns, a shorter snout, more tooth rows in upper and lower jaws, and more pectoral radials. A key to the species of Notoraja in the Indian Ocean is provided.

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The first author is very grateful to Ralf Thiel (ZMH) for granting access to and loan of specimens in the ZMH collection and access to radiography facilities at ZMH, as well as Irina Eidus (ZMH) for her help with the radiography, collection database and translation of Dolganov (2020). Additionally, the authors are grateful to Gavin J.P. Naylor (UF, FLMNH) for his comments on the genetics of Notoraja and related genera, to John Pogonoski and Peter R. Last (CSIRO) for providing radiographs of the holotype of Notoraja lira, and to I. A. Verhigina and Katerina Vasil’eva (former and present ZMMU fish curators, resp.) for loan of several specimens of N. yurii to MFWS. MFWS remembers gratefully the comradeship and great assistance by the RV ‘Vityaz’ crew, all Russian and western guest scientists; special thanks to the late chief scientist N.V. Parin. BS thanks his former IRD colleague Alain Crosnier for entrusting him with his collection of deep-sea fishes from off Madagascar. The authors are grateful to journal editors and reviewers of the manuscript for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Simon Weigmann.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for animal testing, animal care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

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All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgements, if applicable. The study is compliant with CBD and Nagoya protocols.

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SW, BS, and MFWS conceived and designed research, SW and BS conducted examinations, SW wrote the initial version of the manuscript, and SW, BS, and MFWS revised and approved the manuscript.

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Communicated by D. Ebert

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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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Weigmann, S., Séret, B. & Stehmann, M.F.W. Notoraja hesperindica sp. nov., a new colorful deep-sea softnose skate (Elasmobranchii, Rajiformes, Arhynchobatidae) and first generic record from the western Indian Ocean. Mar. Biodivers. 51, 35 (2021).

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