Fun Thorny Skate Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Nov 17, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Thorny skate facts talk about their description, size, and length.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.0 Min

The thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata), also known as the starry skate, is a fish species from the Rajidae family. The distribution of the thorny skates species ranges from the north Atlantic and south Atlantic to the western Baltic Sea.

They are endemic to the North Sea coast of the US and Canada, where their population distribution is abundantly found, ranging from South Carolina reaching up to the Hudson Bay in Canada.

Their population distribution continues to the continental shelf situated in the southern end of Greenland to the eastern Atlantic.

The eastern range of their population starts from the English Channel to Scandinavia and reaches into the Baltic. These starry skates are also known to exist in the waters of the Scotian Shelf in Canada.

They can be distinguished by their diamond-shaped rounded pectoral disc, their snout, and the stout tails attached to their bodies. They are named 'thorny skate' primarily because of the thorny denticles which are scattered all along their spines and along the edges of their tails and pectoral fins.

The smaller thorns or denticles are known as 'prickles' on their dorsal fins.

This unique fish species is highly vulnerable because the fish are prone to being caught as a bycatch of the fishery business. Tagging has not only helped determine their long lifespan and growth but also their dwindling numbers.

It has been reported that overfishing by fisheries in areas like the Gulf of Maine, the Scotian Shelf, South Carolina waters, and the grand banks of the Atlantic Ocean have highly threatened the population of the thorny skate or starry skate.

If you are looking for some interesting facts about the thorny skate, you can check out this compilation of great facts about this species.

For more relatable content, check out these Atlantic halibut facts and northern stargazer facts for kids.

Thorny Skate Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a thorny skate?

The thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) is a type of fish belonging to the Rajidae family that inhabits the lower waters of both northern and southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

They are often called starry skates because of their unique kite-like, diamond-shaped appearance and the excess of spikes and thorns on their spines, their first dorsal fin, and other dorsal fins as well as their pectoral fins and tail (for which they acquired their name).

The species of thorny skate is endemic to the North Sea coast of the US, where they are usually found in the lower and colder waters of the Gulf of Maine as well as the grand banks off the south-eastern coasts of Newfoundland.

What class of animal does a thorny skate belong to?

The thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) species belongs to the Chondrichthyes class of fish and the family of Rajidae.

How many thorny skates are there in the world?

The exact number of thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) fish existing in the world is unknown.

However, their population has severely dwindled due to being victims of bycatch and overfishing by fisheries in both the southern and north Atlantic region, in Canadian waters, and the US waters of the Gulf of Maine. Their numbers have reduced over time, and hence their conservation status has been listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

It has been reported that their population has been dwindling ever since the year 1980 due to habitat shifting caused by climate change along with the effect of fisheries.

Where do thorny skates live?

Thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) fish prefer living in brackish water in colder temperatures. Hence, they are predominantly seen inhabiting the low-lying waters of western gulfs and both the north and southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, including the waters of Greenland.

What is a thorny skate's habitat?

These starry skates usually thrive in the sandy substrates of ocean waters.

They can reach quite deep waters, reaching up to the depth of 3,281 ft (1,000 m), and are known to live in a temperature range between 30-57 F (−1.1 to 13.9 C), thereby making them a cool-water species.

They can even thrive in temperatures that nearly reach the freezing point of saltwater as they have been recorded living freely in the depths of the freezing waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

They are bottom dwellers and usually inhabit saltwater or brackish water, and their diet mainly consists of worms, small bony fish, and crustaceans.

Who does the thorny skate live with?

Not much is known about the social interactions of the thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata). Hence, it is hard to distinguish if they exist in pairs, in packs, or solitarily in the depths of the ocean. However, it is known that males and females do pair up for reproduction.

How long does a thorny skate live?

The thorny skate (Raja radiate) is known for having a long life. They have slow growth and maturity and hence have a long life.

Many skates have been tagged for research by scientists, and quite a few have been found after they have turned 20 years of age. This makes them quite a long-lived species in comparison to other fish like clownfish and toadfish as they grow and mature quite late.

How does the thorny skate reproduce?

The thorny skate is oviparous or egg-laying in nature. Males and females can be distinguished by the denticles on their spines and fins.

However, not much is known about their reproduction processes. It has been reported, as per a study conducted on the thorny skate population in the Gulf of Maine, that once they mature, they actively reproduce all year round in the sea.

Both female ovaries of the thorny skate are productive, but their right ovary seems to be more functional.

The numbers of eggs developed in the female usually range between eight and 22, and they hatch at maturity. Once the eggs reach maturity, they are released by the female from her ovaries, and they are then fertilized and encased by light brown egg cases or capsules.

These egg cases possess thorns in all of the four corners. The egg is laid by the female in sandy substrates.

What is their conservation status?

As per the IUCN, the conservation status of the thorny skate has been rendered Vulnerable. This is because they are victims of the fishery industry.

Even if they are not primarily targeted by fisheries, they usually get caught in trawlers that aim to catch invertebrates and other benthic fish. They, unfortunately, end up becoming a product of bycatch.

Tagging has helped indicate that the population of the thorny skate is gradually increasing in certain areas like in the western part of the north Atlantic Ocean and the Scotian Shelf, where commercial trawling has been prohibited. But overall, their populationt is still declining due to the fishery effect.

Thorny Skate Fun Facts

What does a thorny skate look like?

Thorny skate fish can be easily distinguished by their flattened body and their long and slender tail. The shape of their body or their disc is broad and flat.

Their disc also has a unique kite-like shape. They also have a snout and a mouth that is nearly straight.

Thorny skates gained their name thanks to the row of conspicuous and big thorns that grows in the middle of their first dorsal fin. The number of median thorns (including their teeth) that they possess also varies by region but never exceeds more than 20 thorns.

They also possess spines, including two to three bigger spines on the sides, one in front and behind their eyes and one in the middle of their spiracles.

The dorsal side of the pectoral fins and the snout and tail have smaller spines as well. Thorny skates also have two dorsal fins, a tail that has lateral folds, a caudal membrane that is relatively short, and pelvic lobes.

The thorny skate is dorsally brown and ventrally white. Their skin can also occasionally be covered with spots and blotches.

Sharks are one of the predators of this marine creature.

* Please note that this is an image of a skate, not a thorny skate specifically. If you have an image of a thorny skate, please let us know at

How cute are they?

The thorny skate, like most other skates, is interesting to look at because of its unique body and the way it swims.

Although they will most definitely not make good pets, they add beauty to the marine life at Greenland Bay, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and other parts of the south and north Atlantic oceans and the North Sea.

How do they communicate?

Not much is known about how this sea species communicates or if they exist in pairs, groups, or alone. However, male and female thorny skates do communicate with each other when they need to reproduce.

How big is a thorny skate?

The thorny skate's disc length can reach up to the size of 3.4 ft (1.05 m) in length, from their snout to their dorsal fin. Baby thorny skates usually are born with a length of 4 in (10.2 cm). In contrast, the sawfish is almost four times bigger.

How fast can a thorny skate swim?

It is not known how fast this species can swim.

How much does a thorny skate weigh?

The average weight of mature adult thorny skates ranges between 5.1-25 lb (2.3-11.4 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female fish of the thorny skate species do not have separate names to distinguish them.

What would you call a baby thorny skate?

There is no specific given name to distinguish baby thorny skates from adult ones.

What do they eat?

The thorny skate's diet consists of crustaceans like crabs, shrimps, polychaete worms, and bony fish like finfish, cod, redfish, haddock, and herring. They are also known to eat anemones and eel.

Are they dangerous?

Thorny skates are not known to pose any danger or threat to humans. Unlike other rays, which have poisonous tails that can be lethal to human beings, thorny skates are not poisonous and are quite benign in nature.

Would they make a good pet?

No, thorny skates will not make a good pet predominantly because they require a huge tank to swim in. They also prefer the sandy substrate of the ocean and thrive in colder (or even freezing) temperatures.

Did you know...

It is an interesting fact that female thorny skates lay eggs on the sandy substrate of the ocean. However, the gestation period of these eggs is unknown.

The most interesting fact about the birth of these skates is that the young skates usually hatch from their egg cases or capsules when they are completely formed and at this point, they have a similar appearance to that of adult skates.

How many teeth do thorny skate fish have?

Thorny skates possess 36-46 series of teeth in each of their jaws which are nearly straight in line. The teeth of young male and female fish of this species have low cusps and are nearly smooth, unlike the teeth of mature males, which can be spaced widely and are much sharper.

Can thorny skate fish live in cold waters?

Thorny skates thrive in colder temperatures. They can survive even when saltwater almost reaches its freezing point. Since they can reach depths from 15-4,593 ft (4.6-1,400 m), they are known to tolerate both warmer and colder temperatures ranging from 34.5 -57.2 F (1.4-14 C).

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our blue angelfish facts and flamboyant cuttlefish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Thorny skate coloring pages.

the north atlantic ocean the south-eastern atlantic ocean the gulf of maine hudson bay (canada)

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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