Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Inhabit inshore waters (Ref. 3167). Depth range to 170 m (Ref. 04426), and from 333-343 m in the eastern Ionian Sea (Ref. 56504). Feed on all kinds of benthic animals (Ref. 3167). Oviparous. Distinct pairing with embrace. Young may tend to follow large objects, such as their mother (Ref. 205). Eggs are oblong capsules with stiff pointed horns at the corners deposited in sandy or muddy flats (Ref. 205). Egg capsules are 4.5 cm long and 3.0 cm wide (Ref. 41304).
  • McEachran, J.D. and K.A. Dunn 1998 Phylogenetic analysis of skates, a morphologically conservative clade of elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Copeia 1998(2):271-290. (Ref. 27314)
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Distribution

Range Description

The species can probably be considered endemic in the Mediterranean sea (Serena 2005).
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Eastern Atlantic: endemic to the Mediterranean but may spread to the Strait of Gibraltar, northern Morocco and possibly south to Mauritania.
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Mediterranean Sea and adjacent coast of Portugal (eastern Atlantic).
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Physical Description

Size

Maximum size: 700 mm TL
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Max. size

70.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 4426))
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
R. asterias is found predominantly on the Italian and Corsica continental shelves between shallow waters and 150 m depth (Baino and Serena 2000). In the eastern Ionian sea, the species is found down to depths of 343 m (Mytilineou et al. 2005). Prefers muddy and sandy bottoms, characterised by Crangon crangon, Goneplax rhomboides and Liocarcinus spp. (Vannucci 2005).

Juvenile R. asterias move quickly into shallow waters (5 to 7 m depth) soon after birth and then move into deeper waters progressively with growth. Tag and release studies (Catalano et al. 2003) suggest that hatching probably occurs close to the bottom, at about 30 to 40 m depth. The sex-ratio confirms equal presence of both sexes.

Maximum size is estimated at 72 cm TL for males and of 76 cm TL for females (Bono et al. 2005, Serena and Abella 1999). The growth parameter data obtained using the Von Bertalanffy model were L? = 67.45, K = 0.454, t0 = -0.23 (Bono et al. 2005). Barone et al. (in press.) and Serena et al. (2005) estimate length at maturity at 51.7 cm TL for males and 56.1 cm TL for females, and Serena and Abella (1999) and Bauchot (1987) reported length at maturity at 45 to 54 cm for males and 60 cm for females. Age at maturity is reported at 3 to 4 years for both males and females (Serena and Abella 1999, Bono et al. 2005). Oviparous, the number of egg cases layed (34 to 112) depends on individual size, and egg cases can reach 45 mm in length and 30 mm width (Bauchot 1987). Juveniles are about 8 cm TL when they emerge from the egg cases in January. The sex ratio is about equal (Minervini et al. 1985, Abella et al. 1997).

Recent preliminary tagging experiments (Catalano et al. 2003) suggest a faster growth rate than described in previous literature (Serena and Abella 1999). As this species reaches maturity relatively early (~3 years) and has a short lifespan (~10 years) it is considered to be relatively productive, even though it is only moderately fecund. Therefore it is likely to be resilient to fishing pressure.

Feeds almost exclusively on benthic species, including decapods crustaceans and teleost fishes of the Gobidi family (Gobidae sp., Leserigobius sp., Leserigobius fresii, Gobius niger), Clupeiformes (Engraulis encrasicolus and other species) and Pleuronectiformes (Citharus linguattola, Arnoglossus laterna and others), but occasionally on pelagic species such as the anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus. Juveniles feed mainly on amphipods, and teleost fish become more important in the diet with growth (Cuoco et al. 2005).

Average reproductive age, the annual rate of population increase and natural mortality are unknown.

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

demersal; marine; depth range ? - 343 m (Ref. 56504)
  • Mytilineou, C., C.-Y. Politou, C. Papaconstantinou, S. Kavadas, G. D'Onghia and L. Sion 2005 Deep-water fish fauna in the Eastern Ionian Sea. Belg. J. Zool., 135(2):229-233. (Ref. 56504)
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Depth range based on 7 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 75 - 475
  Temperature range (°C): 13.957 - 18.646
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.070 - 4.002
  Salinity (PPS): 36.559 - 38.781
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.275 - 4.958
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.132 - 0.186
  Silicate (umol/l): 2.210 - 4.827

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 75 - 475

Temperature range (°C): 13.957 - 18.646

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.070 - 4.002

Salinity (PPS): 36.559 - 38.781

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.275 - 4.958

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.132 - 0.186

Silicate (umol/l): 2.210 - 4.827
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth: 0 - 170m.
Recorded at 170 meters.

Habitat: demersal. Commonly found from inshore waters to about 100 m. Feeds on all kinds of benthic animals. Oviparous, spawning peak in summer to early autumn with 30 to more than 100 egg-cases per year depending on the size of the female.
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Trophic Strategy

Inhabits inshore waters. Feeds on all kinds of benthic animals.
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Oviparous, paired eggs are laid. Embryos feed solely on yolk (Ref. 50449). Spawning peak in summer to early autumn with 30 to more than 100 egg-cases per year depending on the size of the female (Ref. 3167). Distinct pairing with embrace. Young may tend to follow large objects, such as their mother (Ref. 205).
  • Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen 1966 Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p. (Ref. 205)
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 6.3 years (wild)
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Raja asterias

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 37
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Serena, F., Mancusi, C., Ungaro, N., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. & Tinti, F.

Reviewer/s
Valenti, S.V. & Kulka, D.W. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This moderately productive ray is mainly restricted to the Mediterranean but may propagate to the Atlantic, near the southern coast of Portugal. It is caught as bycatch by bottom trawl fisheries in the Ligurian Sea targeting teleost fish, by modified beam trawl off Tuscany and also by trammel and gill nets. Analyses of CPUE data indicate that this population is currently stable, despite fishing pressure. Furthermore nursery areas are protected by a ban on trawling within three miles of the coast, and fishing pressure in this area has reduced in the last 15 years. It is quick to mature (three years) and has a short life span (10 years) indicating that it is relatively productive and resilient to fishing pressure. Therefore this species is currently assessed as Least Concern, but further information on its status in the southern Mediterranean is needed.
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Population

Population
This species was captured in both the GRUND (Italian waters) and MEDITS (Mediterranean basin) trawl surveys (Relini 1998, Bertrand et al. 1997), which began in 1985 and 1994 respectively. In the south Ligurian and north Tyrrhenian sea this species was captured over muddy bottoms, in restricted coastal areas from 9 to 190 m depth, but mainly concentrated at 100 to 150 m depth. From 1999 to 2004 the Biomass Index is lower than the Density Iindex, which probably indicates a change in the population structure with a predominance of smaller specimens (Serena et al. 2005). The species has a higher relative abundance on the Italian and Corsica continental shelves (Baino and Serena 2000, Serena et al. 2005). Nursery areas are located very close to the coast (at 2 to 15 m depth) (Abella and Serena 2005).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Starry rays are mainly caught by bottom trawl nets and trammel and gill nets. Near the Corsican coast, in particular, fishing pressure is low because only a few Corsican trawlers, as well as a few Italian vessels, operate in this area (Abella and Serena 2002). A reduced number of trawlers belonging to the La Spezia fleet operate on the same grounds northwards to Viareggio harbour (the most important fishing port of the Northern Tyrrhenian- south Ligurian Sea). The Livorno fleet operating in the same area is also relatively small. Trawlers concentrate their effort mainly on the grounds at depths between 100 and 400 m and therefore there is a little overlap with areas in which the Viareggio fleet operate.

Off Tuscany (Viareggio, Italy) this species is mainly landed as by-catch of beam trawlers, targeting common sole and turbots. It is the most common species caught by a variant of the beam trawl called a rapido, however very few of these operate in this area (Abella and Serena 2002). Most small individuals of R. asterias caught near shore with trammel and gill nets by these artisanal fisheries are landed. However the ban on trawling within three miles of the coast in this area of the Mediterranean affords protection to this species' shallow nursery areas (2 to 15 m) (Abella and Serena 2002). Moreover, a general reduction in fishing effort on the grounds traditionally exploited by the Viareggio fleet occurred during the last 15 years because the number of vessels in operation reduced from 107 in 1985, to 78 in 2000 (Abella and Serena 2002).

Current levels of catch appear to be sustainable among studied stocks (Abella and Serena 2002), however it should be noted that data are lacking throughout the rest of this species' range in the Mediterranean. Further study is needed to accurately assess the status of populations in the rest of its range.

Little information is available on the probability of survival of discarded juveniles. Preliminary experiments performed with individuals caught and successively put into pools of marine water have demonstrated high rates of survival for released individuals of R. asterias caught with bottom trawl nets (Catalano et al. 2003).

Although R. asterias is one of the more exploited species in the Ligurian sea, it is apparently relatively resilient to fishing pressure as a result of its life history characteristics. It is relatively productive due to its early age of first maturity (about three years) and relatively short lifespan (about 10 years), even if it is only moderately fecund (Abella and Serena 2002).
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Least Concern (LC)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The development and implementation of management plans (national and/or regional e.g., under the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks: IPOA-Sharks) are required to facilitate the conservation and sustainable management of all chondrichthyan species in the region.

Further research and monitoring of the population where it is fished is required to prevent declines in the future.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: minor commercial; price category: medium; price reliability: questionable: based on ex-vessel price for species in this genus
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