Southern African skate biodiversity and distribution

  • Leonard J. V. Compagno
  • David A. Ebert
Part of the Developments in Environmental Biology of Fishes 27 book series (DEBF, volume 27)


The skates (Family Rajidae) have 12 genera and possibly 28 species off southern Africa (southern Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique). The geographic and bathymetric distribution and the taxonomic composition of the southern African skate fauna are analysed and the distribution mapped. The southern African skate fauna is best known off the temperate west coast of South Africa from the intertidal to approximately 1,200 meters, but poorly known below 1,200 m and sketchily known in warm-temperate and tropical parts of the area. Southern African skates of the temperate continental shelves above 100 m are not diverse and regularly include one species of the genus Dipturus, one species of Leucoraja, two species of Raja (including R. straeleni, the most abundant skate in southern African waters) and the giant skate Rostroraja alba. All of these skates are ‘shelf overlap’ species that range onto the outer shelves and uppermost slopes, and none are confined to inshore environments. Skate diversity increases on the outer shelves and upper slopes. At least half of the skate species are endemic to the southern African region; other species also occur off East or West Africa, a few extend to European waters, and records of one species, Amblyraja taaf, appear to be of strays from nearby sub-Antarctic seas. The genus Bathyraja and softnose skate group (Arhynchobatinae) are surprisingly limited (a single species) in deep-water off southern Africa (unlike other regions including the Antarctic), and almost all of southern African skates are members of the Rajinae. Amongst rajines, the tribes Amblyrajini (Amblyraja, two species, Leucoraja, two species, and Rajella, five species) Rajini (Dipturus, six species, Okamejei, one species, Raja, two species, and Rostroraja, one species), and Anacanthobatini (Anacanthobatis, two species, and Cruriraja, three species) predominate, while Gurgesiellini has a species of Neoraja and possibly two of Malacoraja.


Rajidae Bathymetric and geographic distribution Biodiversity Systematics Zoogeography Southern Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shark Research CenterIziko – Museums of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Pacific Shark Research CenterMoss Landing Marine LaboratoriesMoss LandingUSA

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