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African Wedgefish

Guitarfish or Wedgefish?

Is this a sand shark, guitar shark or giant guitar shark? Its not even a shark really, its a whitespotted wedgefish! The lack of research on many marine species gives way for common names to run rife leaving everyone a bit confused. 

It might come as a surprise to some but there is actually no such thing as a ‘guitar shark’, instead there are a number of different shark-like rays which fall under the order Rhinopristiformes.  The term “shark-like rays” refers to 63 extraordinary species of rays which belong to one of five families:

  1. sawfishes (Pristidae)
  2. wedgefishes (Rhinidae)
  3. giant guitarfishes (Glaucostegidae)
  4. guitarfishes (Rhinobatidae)
  5. banjo rays (Trygonorrhinidae)

It is thought that the giant guitarfish is what divers often encounter along the East Coast of South Africa, is this correct? Again, the answer is ‘Yes but No’, depending on where you get your information. Many reference books and internet articles contain contradicting information but this confusion is the result of misleading common names or misidentification.

What is commonly referred to as the ‘Giant Guitarfish’ (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) in South Africa is most likely the ‘Whitespotted Wedgefish’ and should not be confused with the family of ‘Giant Guitarfishes’ (Glaucostegidae).  Baffling? We know! Below is a simplified comparison to help you identify some of the distinguishing characteristics between wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes.

 

Please download a fully illustrated ID Guide below:

 Below: Three easily seen differences between wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes.  

guitar wedge comparison 

To learn more about sharks, start a Free online course here www.learn.sharklife.co.za  


References:

Jabado, Rima. (2019). Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes: a guide to species identification.

Blog Author: Jamie Ayliffe - Sharklife Researcher

 

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