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the web of life in southern Africa

Raja straeleni (Biscuit skate)

Poll, 1951

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Batoidei > Rajoidei > Rajidae

Raja straeleni (Biscuit skate) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]


A brown, black-spotted skate with a blunt, angular snout, broad angular disk, long stout tail, strong thorns on upper surface of disk and tail at all stages, sometimes on underside in large individuals. Colour medium brown or grey-brown, usually with small to large black spots, whorls, and blotches; many individuals with a gold and black, transversely oblong eyespot on each pectoral base. Underside of disk white, no dark pores.


To 91 cm TL and 68 cm DW.


West and southeast coast, central Namibia to Algoa Bay and perhaps Natal; tropical west Africa.



Close inshore in shallow enclosed bays to upper slope at 353 m deep on the uppermost continental slope, down to 690 m off west Africa.


Extremely common. Eats shrimp, mysids, hermit crabs, mantis shrimp, crabs, squid, bony fish including hake, ribbonfish, sardine, redeye herring, dragonets, lanternfish, and lightfish, and fish offal.

Human Impact

Caught by shore and skiboat anglers inshore, but most commonly taken by bottom trawlers on the hake grounds. The pectoral fins of biscuit skates are marketed as `skate wings' for human consumption.


The very similar European thornback skate (Raja clavata) has been reported from the area, but its status here is uncertain.****

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale