Guitarfish: Characteristics,types, habitat curiosities and more…

The guitarfish have a tail similar to those of sharks and a head like the rays, which suggests that it is a link between them. Take this opportunity to know everything about them.

These interesting fish are also known by other names according to the place where they live, such as Fiddler Ray, or Banjo Shark. The hybrid character of this species has caused it to be said in such a way because there is a clear hint between the form and the string instrument.


Filum: Chordata, Class: Condrichthyes, Order: Rajiformes, Family: Rhinobatidae, Genus: Tylodina

Guitar fish have a longstanding existence, given that very old fossils have been found: the oldest ones are around 150 million years old. Some excavations and discoveries have found traces of guitar fish in rock formations of the Jurassic period.

It should be noted that the guitar fish that have been discovered have no differences in general terms. The evolutionary change of the species for millions of years has not been so considerable, due to their  lifestyle .

The quietness in the seabed has allowed the guitar fish to maintain their same anatomical features despite the seabed geological changes in which they have lived for millions of years. This same fact occurs with other species, for example, sharks. These are species that hardly change despite their years of antiquity.

Types of Guitar Fish

Currently there are about 53 species that make up of the family Rhinobatidae. All these species have common and differential features, either with the coloration, the skin, the shape of the tail, the size, the place of origin, among other really important aspects that affect the genealogical archeology of the great species of guitar fish.

Some of these species or types of fish are:

Glauscostegus: this is considered as one of the smallest fish of the rhinobatidae group.  The Tarsistes Philippii can be mentioned as another fish that makes up this family which lives on the Chilean coast. We could also mention another species that lives on the coasts of Morocco, known as zanobatus schoenleinii.

The Guitar Fish’ Anatomy

Guitar fish possess a series of anatomical features that stand out among other species that make up the animal kingdom. Their main tratir relies on the lack of well-formed bone structures, although this doesn’t  mean that their frame doesn’t  have any kind of support, since the long and small cartilages distributed throughout their body fulfill such a function.

Due to such characteristics guitar fish are circumscribed within the ranjiform fish,  which are  those species whose physiognomy is composed of a cartilaginous skeleton.

It should be noted that such cartilaginous structure allow them to make harmonious and undulating movements with their pectoral fins. The synchrony that these fish have for swimming is authentic since it seems that they moved through the water without any effort, giving the impression that the marine current is the one that drives their undulations.

On the other hand, guitarfish are characterized by having a triangle-like head as well as a rounded snout located on their body’s upper part  .

As for their eyes, these are located on the snout’s upper side arranged in parallel with great accuracy. On the reverse, guitarfish have a pair of holes that are directly related to the respiratory system, called spiracles located just behind their eyes.

On the other hand, it worth mentioning one of the most important organs for innumerable fish: the gills which are responsible for absorbing the oxygen that H2O water oxygenhas through a mechanism of cellular respiration.

Another of the organs found in this area is the mouths of small, sharp and a little crowded teeht, which carry out the key function of crushing and demolishing all their food we invite you to read our article  fish anatomy to learn more about such a topic

Guitar Fish: Size and Length

Guitar fish measure 91 meters long as a minimum measure. However, let’s look more precisely at this aspect: in the case of the male, he measures around 119 centimeters. Now, the females have a much more pronounced length, since they usually measure around 170 centimeters at most.

Guitar Fish: Body color

Grayish or light brown and the edges of the fins tend to have a whiter coloration, while the rest of the fins are much darker. In the case of the back or belly, the color ranges between light yellow and white.

Let’s meet one of them

Guitar Fish’ Habitat and Distribution

Guitarfish usually inhabit on the sandy seabed, to protect themselves from their predators. They usually remove the sand in order to hide under it and avoid being preyed upon by larger predators. However, denser sand bottoms, that is, sludge, and the vicinity of reefs and silty areas are also inhabited by these curious creatures.

This is a fairly widespread species throughout the Pacific Ocean, as well as in the Mediterranean waters and the lower area of ​​the United States.

Now, there are types of guitar fish that are related to the blankets. In case of talking about these variations, then, it is important to clarify the existence of this type of cartilaginous fish in freshwater, that is, in deep water rivers with sandy bottoms and calm currents. It should be noted that  guitarfish usually inhabit sea beds that reach up to 370 meters deep.

Geographical areas according to the type of fish

Some types of fish have anatomical characteristics that go according to the place where they live like is the case of guitar fish.. Within this geographic and genealogical paradigm, two large groups can be mentioned.

Rhinobatos rhinobatos Common Guitar fish

This species lives in the Atlantic Ocean especially towards the eastern part of it in the Cantabrian Sea between the littoral zone of Spain and France and the Bay of Biscay. Another of the Atlantic seas in which there is a notable presence of guitarfish is the Mediterranean, that is between central Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.

American Guitar Fish

The shovelnose guitarfish is one that lives in the Pacific Ocean towards the easternmost zone. It is natural to find this type of fish in two American gulfs, firstly, in the Gulf of California in the United States, although its proliferation has extended to the waters of San Francisco and the Gulf of Mexico.

What Do Guitar Fish Eat?

Guitar fishes are carnivorous creatures whose usual preys are animals found on the marine substrate, such as snails, clams, as well as some crustaceans and plankton.

How Do Guitar Fish Reproduce?

Guitar fishes are ovoviviparous creatures, which develop the new pups inside an egg. This egg is kept inside the female until embryonic development has been completed. Once the gestation and total formation of the embryo have culminated, the egg is spawned.

These have a quite particular aspect, since they are elongated, flat and their appearance is almost rectangular compared to the almost circular or oval common forms.

Guitars begin to reproduce from 7 years of age. At this time is when the species is in full sexual maturity and is able to reproduce new herds of about 16 pups for each reproduction process.

Guitar Fish’ Behavior

The guitarfish’ behavior is closely related to the type of habitat in which they live since they take advantage of sandy places to remain  hidden and camouflage.  This type of behavior is a defense mechanism to hunt their prey as well as a measure used by guitarfish to hibernate and rest.

Guitar fish spend most of their time immobile under the sand, or moving slowly to avoid being perceived by other types of fish and to be much more successful when capturing their prey.

Now, when they are not crawling on the sand, they usually swim doing undulating movement with their fins. Once found the ideal speed, the guitarfish can take propulsion in order to get out of the sea and perform jumps until reaching a considerable height and get rid of some bacteria that usually stay in them when they are for a long time under the sand.

Although they don’t like to be hidden, it doesn’t mean that they despise  solar energy, in fact, the opposite happens, since they swim very close to the surface to receive both light and the sun heat

In terms of their relationshioship with other species it depends on the guitar fish species. They tend to be gregarious, that is, they live in small groups with the purpose of being able to hunt together and  to safeguard themselves from any type of danger that exists around them and to maintain the species, that is, to reproduce.

However, there are species that tend to be a little more solitary, since such a behavior allows them to avoid the constant competition with other species and it seems that it is much better to have a life in solitary.

Let’s watch them again

Species of Guitarfish

Let’s meet some species of Guitar Fish

Rhinobatos rhinobatos (Common Guitarfish)

This species has a strongly compressed head and fusiform body, with a pointed snout. Their spiracles are large and are located just behind their eyes.

Body Color

The Common Guitarfish’ coloration is gray brown, with dark dorsal and caudal fins with the clear edge while the ventral region is whitish. Common guitarfish reach about 1 meter in body length.


The common guitarfish almost never swims, and remains on the seabed half buried. It feeds on small crustaceans that it chews with its mouth provided with many very small teeth.

Bowmouth Guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma)

Named this way because of its distinctive mouth that ripples like a longbow, the bow-mouth guitarfish has an unmistakable body. This species has a broad rounded snout, a head that is clearly demarcated from the pectoral fins and a tail that is much longer than the body.

The dorsal fins are tall and similar to those of a shark, so it has earned the alternative name of shark finfish fish. However, the most distinctive characteristic of this species is given by its unusual markings and coloration, although they usually become weaker in the larger individuals.

Body Color

The Bowmouth Guitarfish body color is white underneath and grayish blue above, with white spots on the fins, body and tail, a black spot on each pectoral fin and dark bands between the eyes. The young specimens are brown with partial ocelli (dots with eyes-look appearance) along the pectoral fins and black bars between the eyes. This species is characterized by employing its heavily furrowed teeth in undulating rows to crush crabs and molluscs

Let’s meet them

Are Guitar Fish Endangered?

At present, there are some threatened species of guitarfish because of different environmental reasons or have been affected by the human beings industrial activities. The lack of the proper mechanisms of conservation and protection of aquatic animals and, in general, of the preservation of marine biodiversity has deeply affected the guitarfish populations.

In spite of being one of the species with greater presence in the Mediterranean or in the Gulf of California, there are areas in which its presence has already diminished, so much so that they have ceased to exist. This fact is a reality in Isla Cristina, a town on the border between Spain and Portugal.

Although it is only a specific area, it should not be forgotten that nature has already begun to claim havoc with activities that deteriorate the ecosystems’ conditions in which the species lives. The threat and the danger of extinction is a latent problem for guitarfish populations worldwide, mainly because it is a species of slow reproduction which presents a delayed sexual maturation.

While a species reaches the ideal age to start having offspring, some of them have already been fished or have simply become the dinner of their predators, which reduces the possibility that there are producers of new litters.

If there is something must be done for the preservation of animals, it is to increase the level of consciousness about such a species.

Let’s watch and learn

Guitar Fish In Gastronomy

The guitar fish is one of the main ingredients of gourmet dishes as well as traditional dishes, for example the famous Peruvian Chinguirito and Ceviche.

We will see below the preparation of how to cook the meat of the guitar fish in two versions, one as chinguirito and the other as ceviche.



The ingredients for the chinguirito are basic, only 3 elements are required:

    • Salty guitar fish
    • Chilli
    • Lemons


The preparation of the chinguirito is very simple to carry out. The first step is to roast the salted fish on the grill over moderate heat. It is recommended that the fish is frozen, so that the water is the element that cooks the meat in order to avoid fatty products.

On the other hand the fish must be chopped into elongated pieces, preferably in the form of steaks.The steak should be cooked during around 10 minutes on both sides. When the meat has been completely sealed and fully cooked, remove it from the heat and place it in a container in which the preparation will be mixed or brought directly to the plate.

Second, the peppers should be cut in a long way. Then, they must be passed through the griddle until they are cooked a little. The chili will be placed on top of the fish. As a last step, both fish and peppers are sprinkled with a few drops of lemon.

guitarfish: chingarito



    • These are the ingredients that make up the typical Peruvian dish:
    • 1/2 kilo of dry guitar fish
    • 2 Onions, one of them chopped in 4 pieces and another in julienne.
    • The juice of 15 lemons
    • 1 green pepper
    • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander
    • Lettuce
    • Garlic in clove and ground, salt and black pepper to taste


Prepare the meat of the guitar fish is very easy, then we will leave the instructions on how to make this delicious Peruvian dish.

1- Place a pot with enough water to parboil the guitar fish, chopped onion in 4, and 2 cloves of crushed garlic.

2- When the fish has been fully cooked, all the cartilages are separated from the meat. Similarly, the onion and garlic are removed. The broth will be used later, so it is important to preserve.

3- When the fish is at room temperature, the meat is crumbled.

4- Now, you will need a relatively large container in which you can mix and preserve all the ingredients. First of all add the juice of lemon juice, then ground garlic, the chili properly chopped, cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

5- Once this kind of seasoning has been carried out, some broth from the fish will be added to the preparation in order to intensify the flavor of the fish.

6- Some people prefer to add the shredded fish to the dressing or milk of tiger so that the ingredients are integrated, but there are other techniques that are due to the assembly. For example, make a bed of lettuce, then place the onions in julienne and on top of them the fish. As a final ingredient bathe the ingredients with tiger milk.

It should be noted that there are those who call the preparation with lemon juice and fish stock as tiger milk because they proceed to liquefy such preparation ..

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Curious Facts about Guitarfish

All animals have characteristics, abilities or unexpected origins and guitar fish are  not the exception.

Let’s see in detail each of their oddities :

1-Excellent acrobats

The guitarfish stand out for performing acrobatic movements out of the water. Yes, as you read, because although they are mostly hidden on the seabed, it does not mean that it is kept in a state of hibernation all the time.

When they are swimming in the wide sea they take enough acceleration and momentum to get rid of the water mass and perform jumps with impressive pirouettes.

The guitarfish’ acrobatic jumps are quite an enigma, since it is not known for certain the reasons that lead to make these movements. However, there is a hypothesis that seeks to argue and justify such behavior.

Well it is said that the jumps have a close relationship with their courtship. So this series of acrobatics works as a mating ritual for the female to access and start with the reproductive procedure.

2- Cousins ​​of sharks and stingrays

The guitarfish are considered close relatives of sharks, due to a very simple reason: DNA. Yes, there are some traits of this type of fish that are part of their physical appearance that link them with such creatures.

On the other hand, the guitarfish also shares another characteristic with rays or stingrays, since shape of the head is very similar to the body of rays.

3- Long life

The guitar fish is an example of the oldest species on the planet and its structure and form has changed little. If time goes back to 150 million years ago, it is possible to find the same species under the same conditions. The environmental changes have not directly affected the appearance of these creatures.

We see that there are animals that don’t need transformations or rigorous developments since nature has given themthe ability to survive and continue to remain in the marine world.

4- Surfcasting practices

This is a popular activity that is about fishing with rods on the seashore. Generally in these practices species that are found on the shores of the sea and buried in the ground are usually captured, one of them is the guitarfish.

Let’s have a final look of them


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