Spotted Ratfish

Hydrolagus colliei

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Spotted Ratfish are a cartilaginous fish distantly related to sharks. They have long, scaleless bodies which taper to a rat-like tail – thus the unusual name. The head and face are wide and have a snout that resembles a duck’s bill. The skin is dark brown and will produce a copper-like glint when it catches the light. Shades of gold, dark blue, and emerald green are also apparent. The entire length of the body is covered in small white dots with dark gray fins. All the fins are triangular in shape and the dorsal fin on the top of the body is preceded by a venomous spine. The Ratfish’s eyes are bright green and will reflect light similar to that of a cat.

Like many of their shark cousins, the Spotted Ratfish is oviparous, meaning that the embryos form outside the mother’s body. The female Ratfish will usually lay one or two hardened egg cases in the mud every year and then leave. It may take the embryos as long as a year to develop and when they hatch they are self-sufficient.

At night, Rathfish become active and slowly swim along the ocean floor, tracking their prey by smell. They eat crustaceans and shellfish and have specialized teeth designed to cut through hard shells.

Range and Habitat

Ratfish are a deep-water, bottom-dwelling species. They can be found at depths in excess of 3,000 feet (914 m). They may migrate into shallower waters depending on the availability of food. Along the Oregon coast, they are found along the rocky bottom, often disguised is a layer of silt.

Conservation Status