Original Articles

The feeding ecology of skates (Batoidea: Rajidae) off the Cape south coast, South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 12, issue 1, 1992, pages: 823–834
DOI: 10.2989/02577619209504744


Six species of skates were trawled commonly on the continental shelf off the Southern Cape during routine surveys of demersal fish between 1986 and 1990. Raja miraletus is a small skate found principally in shallow (<50 m) water that feeds mainly on small crustaceans, such as mysids and macrurans. The large Raja alba occurs over most of the continental shelf, is a piscivore throughout its life and preys heavily on flatfish, especially Cynoglossus zanzibarensis. R. cf. clavata is ubiquitous on the shelf but most abundant between 50 and 150 m deep. Feeding predominantly on crustaceans, this skate switches from carids, penaeids and mysids when small to brachyurans and small benthic fish when larger. R. pullopunctata is found over a similar depth range but attains a much larger size. It eats small mysids and macrurans when small, but brachyurans and fish become more important in the diet with increasing size of the predator. R. wallacei is most commonly taken at depths of 80–>200 m, feeds initially on small crustaceans, but switches to fish, including eels, as it grows. The small Cruriraja parcomaculata is found at the edge of the continental shelf and over the upper slope; it preys on small crustaceans, including mysids, isopods and macrurans. The distribution pattern of the skates and their prey suggest overlap in prey taken, the overlap being greatest in those species which feed on crustaceans. The large biomass of skates in the area suggests that they are an important component of the demersal faunal assemblage of the continental shelf there, and also that they may have a significant impact on the benthic fauna.

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