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Longnose Skate Creature: Wondrous and Weird Oregon Coast Find

Published 08/17/2018 at 4:27 AM PDT - Updated 08/17/2018 at 5:11 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Longnose Skate: Wondrous and Weird Oregon Coast Find

(Oregon Coast) – There's little doubt the Oregon coast is full of wild ‘n woolly surprises. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

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Periodically, these beaches are the recipient of something really strange flopping around the tide line. Or perhaps their corpses show up on the beaches, as a myriad of things do when the die in the deep below and eventually wash up onshore.

In fact, there have been some reports of them appearing recently: the longnose skate.

It’s a little rare - perhaps a few times a year. These freaky beasts of the deep are literally from way down beneath the waves. It’s a truly wondrous find because this species usually lives well below the ocean surface. Most of the time they’re not living when found on these beaches, but sometimes they are.

Even when they wind up on the beaches as a whole creature, albeit dead - as seen above - it's kind of a big deal.

Seaside Aquarium has had a lot of experience with this in the past. A few times over the past decade, they’ve discovered one still alive and flopping around the tideline. It’s an extraordinary experience.

Such as the one time in 2007 when they received a report of something moving in the surf at Sunset Beach near Gearhart. The moment was recounted by Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium.

“They dug a hole in the sand around it to keep it in water,” Chandler said. “It was incredible that was it still alive. That’s extremely rare.”

A longnose skate is what is called a benthic fish, meaning it spends most of its time on the ocean floor, or anywhere from 82 feet to 2000 feet below the surface.

The scientific name of the creature is Raja rhina, said Tiffany Boothe, of the aquarium. They reach a size of about four feet in total length, although the average size is two to three feet. The one found by aquarium staff back then was 32 inches.

Other photographs shown here, from Boothe, reveal quite the elegant creature. (And let’s face it, a little reminiscent of the shuttlecraft ship from the ‘60s series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”)

Notice the round dots on the skate’s pectoral fins. These, Boothe said, are referred to as eyespots.

“These eyespots are used to distract potential predators,” she said. “They attack the eyespots believing that they are the true eyes of the animal. Skates also bury themselves in the sand to avoid predators. Those who eat this species include large bony fish and sharks.”

Boothe said the longnose skate feeds on small fish and invertebrates. They have adapted a unique way of capturing their prey by pouncing on top of their victim, pinning it to the ocean floor.

Little is known about their life span, Boothe said, although one is known to have lived for 13 years.

They are usually found from the Bering Sea to Baja California. Oregon Coast Lodgings for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

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Below: skate eggs found on the beaches and a skate egg casing (courtesy Seaside Aquarium)




 

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