Skip to main content

Resolution of the Aetomylaeus nichofii species complex, with the description of a new eagle ray species from the northwest Indian Ocean and a key to the genus Aetomylaeus (Myliobatiformes: Myliobatidae)


In recent years, the eagle ray family Myliobatidae has undergone major taxonomic revisions due to molecular and morphological findings. A new species of eagle ray, Aetomylaeus wafickii sp. nov., is described based on specimens collected from the Arabian Gulf, Northwest Indian Ocean. The new species externally most closely resembles A. caeruleofasciatus White, Last, & Baje, 2015 in White et al. 2016 and A. nichofii (Bloch & Schneider, 1801). It can be distinguished from these species by a combination of morphological and meristic characteristics including a higher number of transverse pale bluish to light grey bands on its dorsal surface (8–10 in Aetomylaeus wafickii sp. nov. vs 5–8 in A. caeruleofasciatus and A. nichofii), a higher number of tooth plate rows (13–15 vs 7), a shorter upper tooth plate width (3.1–4.3 vs 4.6–7.5%DW), and a shorter tail ((0.9–1.6) vs (1.4–1.8)) times disc width. Pelvic fin radial counts separate the new species from A. nichofii for males (14–16 vs 16–19) and females (16–19 vs 20–21). Geographically, it occurs from the southern Red Sea, eastwards to the Arabian Sea, and south to Sri Lanka, including in the Arabian Gulf. It appears to be frequently caught as bycatch in gillnets due to its habit of schooling, and is considered particularly susceptible to impacts from regional fisheries. Morphological and meristic findings complement prior molecular evidence documenting three species within the A. nichofii complex. A key to the genus Aetomylaeus is provided for the first time.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9


  • Almojil DK, Moore ABM, White WT (2015) Sharks and rays of the Arabian/Persian Gulf. MBG (INT) Ltd, London

  • Bikram R, Alam F, Rhaman G, Singha NK, Akhtar A (2014) Landing trends, species composition and percentage composition of sharks and rays in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Int J Adv Res Biol Sci 1(3):81–93

    Google Scholar 

  • Bleeker P (1852) Bijdrage tot de kennis der Plagiostomen van den Indischen Archipel. Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. 24 (art. 12), 1–92.

  • Bloch ME, Schneider JG (1801) Systema ichthyologiae iconibus ex illustratum, vol 2. Sandriano Commissum, Berlin, p 584

    Google Scholar 

  • BOBLME (2015) An ecosystem characterization of the Bay of Bengal. Compiled by Brewer D, Hayes D, Lyne V, Donovan A, Skewes T, Milton D, Murphy N. BOBLME-2015-Ecology-13. xvii + 287 pp.

  • Carpenter KE, Krupp F, Jones DA, Zajonz U (1997) Living marine resources of Kuwait, eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. FAO, Rome, Italy.

  • Cuvier G (1816) Le Règne Animal distribué d’après son organisation pour servir de base à l’histoire naturelle des animaux et d’introduction à l’anatomie comparée. Les reptiles, les poissons, les mollusques et les annélides. Vol. 2. 1st Edition. Chez Déterville, Paris, 532 pp.

  • de Blainville H (1816) Prodrome d’une nouvelle distribution systématique du règne animal. Bulletin De La Société Philomathique De Paris 8(105–112):121–124

    Google Scholar 

  • Garman S (1908) New Plagiostomia and Chismopnea. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 51(9):249–256

    Google Scholar 

  • Garman S (1913) The Plagiostomia (sharks, skates, and rays). Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 36:1–51

    Google Scholar 

  • Geoffroy St. Hilaire E (1817) Poissons du Nil, de la mer Rouge et de la Méditerranée. In: Description de l’Egypte ou recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’expedition de l’Armée français, publié par les ordres de sa Majesté-L’Empereur Napoléon le Grand. (Imprimerie Impériale). Histoire Naturelle, 1 (1), pls. 18–27 [Paris].

  • Gilbert CH (1898) In: Jordan DS, Evermann BW (1898) The fishes of North and Middle America: a descriptive catalogue of the speces of fish-like vertebrates found in the waters of North America north of the Isthmus of Panama. Part III. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, 47: 2183a–3136.

  • Gray JE (1834) Illustrations of Indian zoology; chiefly selected from the collection of Major-General Hardwicke, F.R.S. Vol. 1. & 2. Treuttel, Wurtsz, Treuttel, Jun. and Richter, London, Pls. 1–202. [20 parts in 2 vols].

  • Henderson AC, Reeve AJ, Jabado RW, Naylor GJP (2016) Taxonomic assessment of sharks, rays and guitarfishes (Chondrichthyes: Elasmobranchii) from southeastern Arabia, using the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (NADH2) gene. Zool J Linn Soc 176:399–442.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jabado RW, Kyne PM, Pollom RA, Ebert DA, Simpfendorfer CA, Ralph GM, Al Dhaheri SS, Akhilesh KV, Ali K, Ali MH, Al Mamari TMS, Bineesh KK, El Hassan IS, Fernando D, Grandcourt EM, Khan MM, Moore ABM, Owfi F, Robinson DP, Romanov E, Soares A, Spaet JLY, Tesfamichael D, Valinassab T, Dulvy NK (2018) Troubled waters: threats and extinction risk of the sharks, rays and chimaeras of the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters. Fish Fish 19(6):1043–1062.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jabado RW, Kyne PM, Pollom RA, Ebert DA, Simpfendorfer CA, Ralph GM, Dulvy NK (eds.) (2017) The conservation status of sharks, rays, and chimaeras in the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters. Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, UAE and IUCN Species Survival Commission Shark Specialist Group, Vancouver, Canada. 236 pp.

  • Kar A, Raut SK, Battacharya M, Patra S, Das KB, Patra BC (2017) Marine fishes of West Bengal coast, India: diversity and conservation preclusion. Reg Stud Mar Sci 16:56–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kyne PM, Compagno LJV, Bennett MB (2016) Aetomylaeus nichofiiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T84784918A68607458. Downloaded on 29 December 2020.

  • Last PR, White WT, de Carvalho MR, Séret B, Stehmann MFW, Naylor GJP (eds) (2016) Rays of the World. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne

    Google Scholar 

  • Manilo LG and Bogorodsky SV (2003) Taxonomic composition, diversity and distribution of coastal fishes of the Arabian Sea. J Ichthyol 43 (suppl.1):S75– S149.

  • Moghadam M and Meraji Masouleh Haseli M (2014) Halysioncum kishiense sp n. and Echinobothrium parsadrayaiense sp n. (Cestoda: Diphyllidea) from the banded eagle ray, Aetomylaeus cf. nichofii off the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf. Folia Parasitol 61 (2):133–140.

  • Moore ABM, Peirce R (2013) Composition of elasmobranch landings in Bahrain. Afr J Mar Sci 35:593–596.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moore ABM, McCarthy ID, Carvalho GR, Peirce R (2012) Species, sex, size and male maturity composition of previously unreported elasmobranch landings in Kuwait, Qatar and Abu Dhabi Emirate. J Fish Biol 80:1619–1642.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Müller J, Henle FGJ (1841) Systematische Beschreibung der Plagiostomen. Plagiostomen, Berlin 1841:103–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Naylor GJP, Caira JN, Jensen K, Rosana KAM, White WT, Last PR (2012) A DNA sequence-based approach to the identification of shark and ray species and its implications for global elasmobranch diversity and parasitology. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 367:1–262

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Psomadakis PN, Osmany HB and Moazzam M (2015) Field identification guide to the living marine resources of Pakistan. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Marine Fisheries Department, Ministry of Ports & Shipping, Government of Pakistan, Rome, Italy.

  • Rajan PT, Sreeraj CR, Venkataraman K (2012) Diversity and abundance of chondrichthyan fishes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In: Venkataraman K, Raghunathan C, Sivaperuman C (eds) Ecology of faunal communities on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, Germany, pp 117–126

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Raje SG, Sivakami S, Mohanraj G, Manoj Kumar PP, Raju A, Joshi KK (2007) An Atlas on the elasmobranch fishery resources of India. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Special Publication 95. Cochin, India.

  • Raje SG, Zacharia PU (2009) Investigations on fishery and biology of nine species of rays in Mumbai waters. Indian J Fish 56:95–101

    Google Scholar 

  • Randall JE (1995) Coastal fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii

    Google Scholar 

  • Reeve AJ, Kayoueche-Reeve M, Al-Mamari T, Al-Shuaily S, Henderson AC (2011) A field guide to the elasmobranchs of South-east Arabia. Part 2: Guitarfishes and sawfishes. Shark Project Oman, Muscat, pp 38.

  • Sabaj, MH (ed.) (2019) Standard symbolic codes for institutional resource collections in herpetology and ichthyology: an online reference. Version 7.1 (21 March 2019). American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Washington, DC. Available at [accessed 19 September 2020]

  • Spaet JLY, Berumen ML (2015) Fish market surveys indicate unsustainable elasmobranch fisheries in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Fish Res 161:356–364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tyabji Z, Wagh T, Patankar V, Jabado RW, Sutaria D (2020) Catch composition and life history characteristics of sharks and rays (Elasmobranchii) landed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India Plos One 15(10):e0231069.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vossoughi GH, Vosoughi AR (1999) Study of batoid fishes in northern part of Hormoz Strait, with emphasis on some species new to the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. Indian J Fish 46(3):301–306

    Google Scholar 

  • Weigmann S (2016) Annotated checklist of the living sharks, batoids, and chimaeras (Chondrichthyes) of the world, with a focus on biogeographical diversity. J Fish Biol 88(3):837–1037.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • White WT, Furumitsu K, Yamaguchi A (2013) A new species of eagle ray Aetobatus narutobiei from the Northwest Pacific: an example of the critical role taxonomy plays in fisheries and ecological sciences. PLoS ONE 8(12):1–11.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • White WT, Last PR, Baje L (2016) Aetomylaeus caeruleofasciatus, a new species of eagle ray (Myliobatiformes: Myliobatidae) from northern Australia and New Guinea. Ichthyol Res 63:94–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • White WT, Naylor GJP (2016) Resurrection of the family Aetobatidae (Myliobatiformes) for the pelagic eagle rays, genus Aetobatus. Zootaxa 4139:435–438.

  • White WT, Last PR, Naylor GJP, Jensen K, Caira JN (2010) Clarification of Aetobatus ocellatus (Kuhl, 1823) as a valid species, and a comparison with Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasen, 1790) (Rajiformes: Myliobatidae). In: Last PR, White WT, Pogonoski JJ (eds). Descriptions of new sharks and rays from Borneo. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper 032:141–164.

  • White WT, Arunrugstichai S, Naylor GJP (2021) Revision of the genus Mustelus (Carcharhiniformes: Triakidae) in the northern Indian Ocean, with description of a new species and a discussion on the validity of M. walker and M. ravidus. Mar Biodivers 51(3):42.

  • White WT (2014) A revised generic arrangement for the eagle ray family Myliobatidae, with definitions for the valid genera. Zootaxa 3860:149–166.

Download references


The authors would like to thank Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi management for supporting and funding the Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey. We gratefully acknowledge the support and involvement of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research team (NIWA) especially Neil Bagley, Keith Michael, Peter Marriott, Peter McMillan, Darren Stevens, and Warrick Lyon for collecting specimens while at sea and Nestor Cordero Deatras from Dubai Municipality for providing additional samples. Special thanks go to Shamsa M. Al Hameli for help with laboratory work, fixing and shipping specimens, and taking pictures (upper and lower tooth photos). Also thanks to Marsha Englebrecht for supporting us with the laboratory work and taking the whole specimens pictures. We are also grateful to Dave Catania and Jon Fong at the California Academy of Sciences for facilitating the transfer of specimens and providing access to other materials examined and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital for providing us with Xrays of specimens. We finally thank Gavin Naylor for constructive comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript, Will White for sharing pictures of Aetomylaeus nichofii and A. caeruleofasciatus, and two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.


This project was funded by the Environment Agency—Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity provided support for this project.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rima W. Jabado.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethics approval

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

Sampling and field studies

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. This study is compliant with CBD and Nagoya protocols.

Data availability

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.

Author contribution

RWJ and DAE conceived and designed the research, RWJ and DAE conducted the examinations, RWJ and DAE wrote the initial version of the manuscript, and revised it. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Additional information

Communicated by S. Weigmann

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This article is registered in ZooBank under

The species is registered in ZooBank under

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jabado, R.W., Ebert, D.A. & Al Dhaheri, S.S. Resolution of the Aetomylaeus nichofii species complex, with the description of a new eagle ray species from the northwest Indian Ocean and a key to the genus Aetomylaeus (Myliobatiformes: Myliobatidae). Mar. Biodivers. 52, 15 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Chondrichthyes
  • Elasmobranch
  • Batoid
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Arabian Gulf
  • New species