Shovelnose guitarfish

Bottom side of a shovelnose guitarfish

Meet the shovelnose guitarfish or Rhinobatos productus, a common resident off California’s southern coast. This was another cool creature caught by the trap set in Long Beach Harbor near the breakwall on Cabrillo Aquarium’s See the Sea trip.

According to Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast by Dr. Milton Love, shovelnose guitarfish prefer hanging out in shallower water, usually less than 40 feet and they can reach 5.5 feet in length!

Researchers, including Dr. Love, have noticed that guitarfish congregate together in large crowds in shallow water during the beginning of March, possibly for mating and spawning. Here’s a cool fact from Dr. Love: “Females produce as many as 28 young which are born alive as little 6-inch replicas of the adults.” Guitarfish style cloning!

Based on the Montery Bay Aquarium’s website, shovelnose guitarfish are members of the ray family, have been around for 100 million years and hide in the sand with their eyes sticking out waiting to catch unsuspecting crabs, shrimp and flatfish. For a long time, fishermen didn’t really go after guitarfish and usually discarded guitarfish that ended up in gillnets. But now guitarfish are kept and support a small fishery.

The craziest shovelnose guitar fish anecdote is a confirmed attack on a diver. Love and wikipedia both relay the story that a diver inadvertently interrupted a male busy courting a female and the male guitarfish rammed the diver as payback for such rude behavior. The diver escaped unscathed, but hopefully learned an important lesson: don’t mess with males in mating mode! Probably a good policy to follow when it comes to the entire animal kingdom, including humans of course.


  1. JNapoli says

    Another fine post on an under-represented aspect of marine life. And while I admire its tenacity when its mating is interrupted, I have to say the name of this fish sounds like an insult from a 1930’s movie. (“You shovelnose guitar fish!”)

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