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Phylum Chordata, Class Chondrichthyes (sharks, rays and skates, chimaeras)


Chondrichthyes are jawed fish with skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. The class is divided into two subclasses: Elasmobranchii (sharks, rays and skates) and Holocephali (chimaeras which includes ghost sharks also known as elephant fish).


Cephaloscyllium laticeps

Draughtboard Shark, Sleepy Joe

Habitat: Exposed reef, sand

Depth: 3-60m

Size: to 1.5m

Diet: Crustaceans and small fish

Distribution: around Tasmania and from WA to NSW

Comment: Draughtboards are a slow moving bottom dwelling species, common on Tasmanian reefs. They are readily identifiable having a brown coloured body with darker brown speckles on the dorsal surface.  Females lay a cream coloured egg case (pictured here), which is usually hidden amongst seaweed.

For more information see http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3748

MDC locations: viewing pool


Dentiraja lemprieri

Thornback Skate

Habitat: Sand, mud

Depth: 0-170m

Size: to 520mm in length

Diet: Small crustaceans and other invertebrates

Distribution: around Tasmania and from SA to NSW

Comment: Thornback skates are identifiable by the presence of thorns around the eyes and dark patches underneath the snout. They also have spines elsewhere on their bodies with two small dorsal fins near the end of the tail.  This species is most commonly found in shallow estuaries in southern Tasmania.

For more information see http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Dentiraja+lemprieri

MDC locations: viewing pool


Mustelus antarcticus

Gummy Shark

Habitat: Sand, reef

Depth: 1-350m

Size: to 1.75m in length

Diet: Crustaceans, molluscs

Distribution: around Tasmania and from WA to NSW

Comment: Gummy sharks are slender, light grey sharks with small white spots along the length of their bodies. They have two dorsal fins, without spines, and a caudal fin distinctly notched on the upper lobe.   Gummy sharks have flat plate-like teeth which are used to crush their prey.  Gummy Sharks provide much of the ‘flake’ used in fish and chip shops. Being a slow growing species, it is believed they have been largely overfished.

For more information see http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3260

MDC locations: viewing pool


Spiniraja whitleyi

Melbourne Skate /Whitley’s Skate

Habitat: Sand, mud

Depth: 1-170m

Size: to 1.7m in length, 1.1m in width

Diet: Small invertebrates, small fish

Distribution: around Tasmania, and from WA to NSW

Comments: This is the largest species of skate found in southern Australian waters.  Adults can attain a weight of 50kg.  Whilst skate do not have a barb in their tail like stingrays, this species has spines along its tail which has make handling difficult if caught in nets.  Females lay a brown egg case roughly 20cm long (pictured).

For more information see http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Spiniraja+whitleyi

MDC locations: viewing pool


Squalus acanthias

White spotted dog shark

Habitat: Bays and estuaries

Distribution: around Tasmania and from SA to Vic

Size: to 1 metre

Diet: Small crustaceans and other invertebrates, small fish

Comments: White spotted dog sharks are slow-growing and can live up to 70 years of age.  They reach maturity between 10 and 25 years, breeding in inshore bays and estuaries.  Dog sharks are viviparous (females bear live young), with a gestation period of 18-20 months.  Females may give birth to litters of up to 20 pups. These sharks have dorsal-fin spines that can be quite sharp, especially in younger sharks.

For more information see http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3513

MDC locations: viewing pond