Blackspotted Whipray, Maculabatis astra (Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski 2008)

Other Names: Black-spotted Stingray, Black-spotted Whipray, Coachwhip Ray, Wulura

A Blackspotted Whipray, Maculabatis astra, at Fitzroy Island, Queensland, March 2020. Source: @biniek-io / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A greyish-brown whipray, sparsely to densely covered in small black spots, with each spot usually surrounded by a ring of faint white spots (faint white spots also sometimes present between dark spots), and distinct alternating black and white bands on the tail. The underside is uniformly white.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Maculabatis astra in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024,

Blackspotted Whipray, Maculabatis astra (Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski 2008)

More Info


Shark Bay, Western Australia, around the tropical north, to Moreton Bay, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in West Papua, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
The species is reportedly common and abundant in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Inhabits sandy and muddy areas, from mangrove flats to offshore waters on the continental shelf.


Disc broad, rhomboidal, trunk not greatly thickened. Snout relatively short, triangular, with a weak apical lobe, angle 102–112°; lateral apices moderately angular to narrowly rounded. Orbits moderately large, protruded slightly. 
Tail long, whip-like, without skin folds; base of tail not depressed, circular in cross-section. with deep longitudinal groove on mid-ventral surface and prominent ridge along its mid-lateral edge.
Primary denticle band on disc well developed in adults, present in postnatal juveniles (exceeding 200 mm DW) and larger; secondary denticle band subrectangular, with well-defined lateral margins, band extending along trunk from preorbital and onto tail, its maximum width subequal to interspiracular width; band fully developed by 480 mm disc width.
Pectoral-fin radials 130–135; total vertebral count (excluding 1st synarcual centra) 94–102, monospondylous centra 43–47, pre-sting diplospondylous centra 50–56.


Dorsal surface with diffuse dark brown spots or specks, spots extending onto tail to stinging spine base; distance between spots more than diameter of largest spot apart; tail banded beyond sting in juveniles (less than 300 mm DW), saddled above and pale ventrally in largest adults.


Grows to at least 180 cm total length (TL) and 80 cm disc width (DW) with females generally larger than males. Females mature at ~67 cm DW, males at ~44 cm DW. 
Reproduction is viviparous with histiotrophy. Females produce 1–3 pups per litter, with pups born at about 15–21 cm DW. 
Maximum age estimates range from 19–24 years for males and 28–31 years for females. 


Taken as bycatch of beach seine and bottom trawl fisheries in northern Australia.


Prior to the description of Maculabatis astra, the species was often misidentified as Himantura toshi and H. uarnak in earlier literature.

Similar Species

The Blackspotted Whipray is very similar to Maculabatis toshi, differing in having a pattern of sparse to often dense black spots on the dorsal surface (vs. no black spots in M. toshi).


The specific name is from the Latin astrum (= star, constellation), in reference to the dorsal coloration, which usually consists of dark spots orbited in various ways by whitish spots, vaguely resembling a cluster of stars (most evident in larger specimens).

Species Citation

Himantura astra Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski 2008, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper No. 022: 304. Type locality: Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, Australia, 13°02'S, 138°51'E, depth 55 m.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Blackspotted Whipray, Maculabatis astra (Last, Manjaji-Matsumoto & Pogonoski 2008)


Daley, R.K., Stevens, J.D., Last, P.R. & Yearsley, G.K. 2002. Field Guide to Australian Sharks & Rays. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 84 pp. (as Himantura toshi)

Grant, E.M. 1987. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. (as Himantura uranak)

Jacobsen, I.P. 2007. The Biology of Five Benthic Elasmobranch Species from Northern and North-East Australia, Incorprating a Taxonomic Review of the Indo-West Pacific Gymnuridae. PhD Thesis, University of Queensland,

Jacobsen, I.P. & Bennett, M.B. 2011. Life history of the blackspotted whipray Himantura astraJournal of Fish Biology 78: 1249–1268, 

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Kyne, P.M. 2010. Chondrichthyans and the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery: Bycatch reduction, biology, conservation status and sustainability. PhD thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 361 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293

Last, P.R. & Compagno, L.J.V. 1999. Family Dasyatidae. pp. 1479-1505 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068 (as Himantura toshi)

Last, P.R., Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M., Naylor, G.J.P. & White, W.T. 2016. Dasyatidae. pp. 522-618 in Last, P.R., White, W.T., Carvalho, M.R. de, Séret, B., Stehmann, M.F.W. & Naylor, G.J.P. (eds). Rays of the World. Clayton South, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 790 pp.

Last, P.R., Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M. & Pogonoski, J.J. 2008. Himantura astra sp. nov., a new whipray (Myliobatoidei: Dasyatidae) from northern Australia. pp. 303-314 in Last, P.R., White, W.T. & Pogonoski, J.J. (eds). Descriptions of new Australian chondrichthyans. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper No. 022: 1-358,

Last, P.R., Naylor, G.J.P. & Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M. 2016. A revised classification of the family Dasyatidae (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes) based on new morphological and molecular insights. Zootaxa 4139(3): 345–368.

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. (as Himantura toshi)

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp. 

Marshall, T.C. 1966. Tropical Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney : Angus and Robertson pp. 239. (as Himantura uarnak)

Naylor, G.J.P., Caira, J.N., Jensen, K., Rosana, K.A.M., White, W.T. & Last., P.R. 2012. A DNA sequence-based approach to the identification of shark and ray species and its implications for global elasmobranch diversity and parasitology. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 367: 1-262,

Rigby, C. 2015. Life history of deepwater chondrichthyans. PhD thesis, James Cook University, Queensland, 225 pp,

Rigby, C. 2016. Maculabatis astra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T195455A104184896. Downloaded on 08 April 2021.

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls. (as Himantura uranak)

White, W.T., Baje, L., Sabub, B., Appleyard, S.A., Pogonoski, J.J. & Mana, R.R. 2017. Sharks and Rays of Papua New Guinea. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Monograph Series 189: 1-327 See ref online

White, W.T. & Dharmadi. 2007. Species and size compositions and reproductive biology of rays (Chondrichthyes, Batoidea) caught in target and non-target fisheries in eastern Indonesia. Journal of Fish Biology 70: 1809-1837,

Whitley, G.P. 1940. The Fishes of Australia. Part 1. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Roy. Zool. Soc. N.S.W. 280 pp. 303 figs.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37035020

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:inshore to 140 m

Habitat:Sandy, muddy areas

Max Size:180 cmTL; 92 cmDW

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CAAB distribution map