The Undulate Ray (Raja undulata) is a skate, not a ray. It is a cartilaginous fish (fish without bones, like a shark). Instead of a bony skeleton, it has cartilage, which is the same substance as the human nose and human ears.
The Undulate Ray has a flat disc-shape body, with a triangle-shaped front part (head) and nearly-round body. It is not perfectly round because it has elongated sides. It has a long tapering tail with two small dorsal fins at the end with two thorns between them. They are barbless.
It has bulging eyes that are close together and face the front. Its mouth is on its underside and is small. It has five pairs of small gills which enable it to breath underwater. It is light-brown or grey with dark bands on its tail and dark spots on its body. Its has a creamy-white underbelly.
It measures about 100 centimetres (39 inches) in length.
The Undulate Ray is native to the Mediterranean Sea and the East Atlantic Ocean from Ireland and England to the Gulf of Guinea. It prefers oceans with soft sandy or muddy bottoms. It prefers shallow water. Therefore, it is a coastal marine (saltwater) skate.
The wing-like pectoral fins are used for locomotion.
It eats small fish, crabs, molluscs, and shellfish. It lays hidden in the soil on the bottom of the ocean, and leaps out of the sand to catch its prey. It traps its prey under its ‘wings’ and eats it with its sharp teeth. It has 40-50 rows of teeth in their upper jaw – wedged, pointed, and chisel-edged teeth. To avoid predators, it hides under the soil.
The Undulate Ray is oviparous, which means that it lays eggs. Females lay leathery egg-cases, called a mermaid’s purse. In each egg-case is one young, which emerges from the egg-case after about 3 months. She lays up to about 80 eggs.
Its lifespan is about 20 years.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM