Big Skate

Raja binoculata

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Skates are commonly marine animals all along the Pacific Coast. They are generally found gliding gracefully through the water along the ocean bottom or buried in the sand and mud.

The Big Skate is rhomboidal in shape with neither the head nor the pectoral fins clearly demarked. The attached pectrol fins actually take on the appearance of “wings” to the untrained eye. Unlike the Bat Ray with its raised head, the Big Skate’s head is fairly flat with a pointed snout.

Skates take water in through spiracles on their top surface and push it out through gills on the undersurfrace. This enables them to respire even while buried in sand and also aids in the burying process. Aside from this ability to camouflage itself, the Big Skate also relies on spines along the upper body to protect it from predators. Big Skates are the largest of the Pacific skates and can grow up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter.

Range and Habitat

The sandy or muddy ocean bottom, along the coast from the Bering Sea to Baja California.

Conservation Status


Photo credit: NOAA.