Eastern Shovelnose Stingaree: Trygonoptera imitata

Family: Urolophidae
Common name(s)

Eastern Shovelnose Stingaree.

Identification

A large stingaree with a rounded kite-shaped disc that is slightly wider than long. Snout broadly rounded or obtusely angular, without an extended tip. Anterior margins of disc mildly convex, apices broadly rounded. Disc completely smooth.
Eyes medium-sized; orbit length 0.2-0.23 x snout length. Spiracle origin below  anterior half of eye. Mouth small. Six oral papillae on mouth floor. Nasal curtain skirt shaped, not extended into a distinct lobe, posterior margin heavily fringed. Broad, fleshy lateral-posterior lobe present on each nostril.
Tail 0.81-0.89 x disc length, oval in cross-section, depressed anteriorly. Dorsal fin absent. Caudal fin relatively large and deep.

Colour

Dorsum brown, dark brown, or occasionally yellowish, often with small dark or pale flecks. Dorsum may be darker centrally. Caudal lobe dusky. Ventrum white with a broad grey/brown margin.

Size

Total length at least 80cm. Length at birth approximately 20cm.

Habitat

Temperate seas. Found on sandy and muddy substrates, often adjacent to rocky reefs and/or kelp. Usually observed in extremely shallow bays at less than 5m, but recorded to at least 120m.

Distribution

Endemic to Southeast Australia. Occurs from Beachport, South Australia to Bermagui, New South Wales. Common in Victoria.

Conservation Status

LEAST CONCERN

The Eastern Shovelnose Stingaree is taken as incidental bycatch in commercial shelf fisheries (Danish seine, trawl), particularly in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) off southeast Australia (Walker and Gason 2007). Effort in that fishery is limited within Bass Strait which would provide the species with some refuge from major fishing gear in that area (Patterson et al. 2017). This species is of no commercial value and is discarded when caught (Walker and Gason 2007).
Where the species is taken as bycatch, a concern is the demonstrated low post-release survivorship of trawl caught stingarees (Campbell et al. 2018), and the fact that urolophids frequently abort pups upon capture and handling; even if gravid females survived capture, their reproductive output can be lost (White et al. 2001, Trinnie et al. 2009, Adams et al. 2018).
The species may also be subject to localized habitat loss and degradation due to increased levels of recreational water use and development in shallow embayments around southern Australia.

Citation

Kyne, P.M., Finucci, B., Marshall, L.J., Last, P.R. & Trinnie, F. 2019. Trygonoptera imitataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T60081A68648058. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T60081A68648058.en. Downloaded on 20 March 2021.

Reproduction

Viviparous, probably with trophodermic nutrition. Litter size up to 7 pups. Parturition occurs in February and March.

Diet

Diet consists mainly of polychaete worms.

Behavior

Poorly known.

Reaction to divers

Somewhat easily approached with non-threatening movements.

Diving logistics

The eastern shovelnose stingaree is one of the most common species encountered in shallow water at dive sites in Victoria. It is especially abundant near Melbourne within Port Philip Bay. Due to its preference for extremely shallow water, it can also be encountered while snorkelling close to shore.

Divers also run into this species in southern NSW (albeit with much lower frequency) e.g. at Merimbula and Jervis Bay.

Similar species

Common Stingaree Distinguishable by the presence of a small dorsal fin.

Western Shovelnose Stingaree Virtually indistinguishable although sometimes lighter. Best identified by more westerly range.