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Marine sport fish identification key - Sharks, rays, and skates

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Key to sharks, rays, and skates

1.a. Dorsally compressed (flat with eyes on top of head) with very large pectoral fins. Tail long and narrow - go to 13 (Rays and Skates)

1.b. Not dorsally compressed. Tail with distinct caudal fin - go to 2 (Sharks)

2.a. Has 2 dorsal fins - go to 4

2.b. Has 1 dorsal fin and 1 anal fin; teeth on lower jaw are saw-like- go to 3

3.a. Has 7 gill slits, black spots scattered over body - Sevengill Shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) (2.7 m / 9 ft) - rare species

3.b. Has 6 gill slits, no spots on body- Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) (4.7 m / 15.5 ft) - rare species

4.a. No anal fin present - go to 5

4.b. Anal fin present - go to 6

5.a. Has a single spine in front of each of the two dorsal fins. Snout pointed. White spots usually cover body - Spiny Dogfish (Squalus suckleyi) (1.6 m / 5 ft) - uncommon species

5.b. No spines in front of dorsal fins. Snout rounded. Eyes small. Appears flaccid when out of water. No white spots on body - Pacific Sleeper Shark (Somniosus pacificus) (4.4 m / 14.5 ft) - rare species

6.a. Upper lobe of tail huge (more than half the length of the body) - Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus) (6.1 m / 20 ft) - rare species

6.b. Upper lobe of tail less than 1/4 length of body - go to 7

7.a. Body covered with broad dark bars, saddles, and spots - Leopard Shark (Triakis semifascia02/17/2022 3:25 PM or no spots on body - go to 8

8.a. Body robust. Second dorsal fin tiny (less than 1/4 of the size of first dorsal fin). One or more lateral caudal keels - go to 9

8.b. Body slender. Second dorsal fin greater than 1/4 of the size of the first dorsal. No lateral caudal keels - go to 11

9.a. Pectoral fins long. Single caudal keel. Long conical pointed snout - Bonito Shark (Shortfin Mako) (Isurus oxyrinchus) (3.8 m / 12.5 ft) - rare species

9.b. Snout bluntly conical - go to 10

10.a. Has black spot at base of pectoral fin. Single caudal keel - White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) (9.1 m / 30 ft) - rare species

10.b. Has black spot at base of pectoral fin. Large blotches of gray or black on belly in adults. Second caudal keel behind and below first keel - Salmon Shark (Lamna ditropis) (3 m / 10 ft) - rare species

11.a. Terminal dorsal lobe of tail large, almost half the size of the dorsal lobe. Second dorsal fin directly over the anal fin - Soupfin Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) (2 m / 6.5 ft) - rare species

11.b. Terminal dorsal lobe of tail less than a third of the size of the dorsal lobe - go to 12

12.a. Second dorsal fin ahead of anal fin - Brown Smoothhound (Mustelus henlei) (94 cm / 37 in) - rare species

12.b. Second dorsal fin directly above anal fin. Very long pectoral fins - Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) (3.8 m / 12.5 ft) - uncommon species

13.a. Row of three mid-body spines, and three rows of spines on tail. Snout short but distinctly pointed - California Skate (Raja inornata) (76 cm / 2.5 ft) - rare species

13.b. Single mid-body spine and row of single spine on the tail - go to 14

14.a. Single mid-body spine, and row of single spines beginning behind eye-spots and continuing out tail. Snout not distinctly pointed - Big Skate (Berongraja binoculata) (2.4 m / 8 ft) - uncommon species

14.b. Single mid-body spine, and row of single spines beginning at origin of pelvic fins and continuing out tail. Snout long and distinctly pointed - Longnose Skate (Raja rhina) (137 cm / 4.5 ft) - unusual species

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Eric Schindler
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
2040 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, Oregon 97365
(541) 867-4741


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02/17/2022 3:25 PM