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Flatshark Day: Rays, Skates, Sawfish And Who They Are

Oct 09, 2015 03:27 PM EDT
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A recent day had the hashtag #Flatshark on Twitter and social media. What's it all mean?

While public opinion is starting to turn in favor of many sharks, near-relatives rays, skates and sawfish--which are all flatter versions--often go ignored. That's too bad, considering how they look while swimming; rays in particular are mysterious flappers of the depths. Scientists would like to make them better known.

Around the world, there are about 500 rays and skates. They're divided into 18 families of classification. Also, they have some pretty funky names, including guitarfish, butterfly rays, electric rays, round rays, mantas and sawfish, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Just to zero in on one "flatshark" for today, the Bowmouth Guitarfish (which has an old Bluesman's name if there ever was one) has a wide-nosed flattened shark appearance and is considered a "missing link" between sharks and rays by some scientists because it has a ray-like nose and gills but a powerful swimming end and tail. Its range is Indo-Pacific West, from the Red Sea and Africa, up to Japan, and down to just north of Australia, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, Calif. 

The spotted eagle ray is also wondrous as it flaps along. Here is a video about Florida research regarding that ray, posted by the California Academy of Sciences: 

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