Whitespotted Skate, Dentiraja cerva (Whitley 1939)

Other Names: Hind Skate, White-spotted Skate

Dipturus cerva. Source: CSIRO National Fish Collection. License: CC BY Attribution

A yellowish brown to greyish brown skate with many small, regular-sized white spots, and a whitish underside often with greyish areas and black-edged pores, but no dark marking at tip.
This species was previously referred to as Dipturus cerva.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Dentiraja cerva in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3891

Whitespotted Skate, Dentiraja cerva (Whitley 1939)

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Endemic to southern Australia, from Eden, New South Wales, around southern Australia, to the Recherche Archipelago, Western Australia, including around Tasmania. 
Most common on offshore soft sediment areas on the continental shelf and slope. This is the most abundant skate on the continental shelf in the Great Australian Bight.


Disc weakly quadrangular; ventral edge of disc at eye level smooth; snout short to moderate length (orbital diameter 28–30% preorbital length); 4–9 prominent orbital thorns; 1–3 (mostly one) nuchal thorns; tail relatively short (75–85% precloacal length in adults), depressed, slender; lateral skin folds well developed; claspers relatively slender, not bulbous; pectoral-fin tips narrowly rounded.


Feeds mostly on carideans (shrimp), and also on octopus and bottom-dwelling fishes. Juveniles feed mostly on shrimp.


Females attain maturity at five years of age and 49 cm total length (TL) and males at four years and 45 cm TL. Longevity is nine years, with a generation period of five years, and the maximum known size is 66 cm TL. 
Females produce oblong egg capsules with stiff pointed horns at the corners. The egg capsules measure 7.0 cm long and 3.8 cm wide and females deposit them in sandy or muddy flats. Pups are born at 15 cm TL.


Taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries operating off southern Australia, such as the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark (SESS) fishery. The flesh is of good quality, and skate flaps are often available in fish shops.

Similar Species

Distinguished from closely related and sympatric Longnose Skate, Dentiraja confusus, by the absence of granulations on anteroventral surface of disc.


The specific name is from the Latin cerva (= a female deer, doe), preusmably in reference to the deer-like colour pattern of this species with "varying shades of brown from light tan to dark brown on the dorsal surfaces. Disc with scattered white or yellowish  nebulous spots above."

Species Citation

Raja cerva Whitley 1939, The Australian Zoologist 9(3): 249, pl. 20(1). Type locality: 25 miles northeast of Babel Island, Bass Strait, north of Tasmania, depth 70-100 fathoms.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Whitespotted Skate, Dentiraja cerva (Whitley 1939)


Last, P.R. 1994. Families Torpedinidae, Rajiidae, Rhinobatidae. pp. 154-172 figs 132-149 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. (as Raja cerva)

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs. (as Raja cerva)

Last, P.R., Séret, B., Stehmann, M.F.W. & Weigmann, S. 2016. 19. Skates. Family Rajidae. pp. 204-363 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. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. (as Raja cerva)

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

Last, P.R., Weigmann, S. & Yang, L. 2016. Changes to the nomenclature of the skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajiformes). Rays of the World: Supplementary Information. CSIRO Special Publication. pp. 11-34 

Last, P.R. & White, W.T. 2008. Family Rajidae. 108-124 pp. in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as Dipturus cerva)

Last, P.R. & Yearsley, G.K. 2002. Zoogeography and relationships of Australasian skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Journal of Biogeography 29(12): 1627-1641 (as Dipturus cerva)

McEachran, J.D. & Dunn, K.A. 1998. Phylogenetic analysis of skates, a morphologically conservative clade of elasmobranchs (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae). Copeia 1998(2): 271-290 (as Okamejei cerva)

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs. (as Raja cerva)

Treloar, M.A. 2009. Dipturus cerva. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T161329A5399492. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009-2.RLTS.T161329A5399492.en. Downloaded on 10 May 2021.

Treloar, M.A., Laurenson, L.J.B. & Stevens, J.D. 2006. Descriptions of rajid egg cases from southeastern Australian waters. Zootaxa 1231(1): 53-68, https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.1231.1.3

Treloar, M.A., Laurenson, L.J.B. & Stevens, J.D. 2007. Dietary comparisons of six skate species (Rajidae) in south-eastern Australian waters. Environmental Biology of Fishes 80(2-3): 181-196, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-007-9233-6

Walker, T., Stevens, J., Braccini, M., Daley, R., et. al. 2008. Rapid assessment of sustainability for ecological risk of shark and other chondrichthyan bycatch species taken in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. Final report to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project No. 2002/033. 354 + v pp. 

Whitley, G.P. 1938. Australian Museum Magazine 6(11): 380, fig. 19 (egg-case from Bass Strait). (as "White-spotted Skate, Raja sp.")

Whitley, G.P. 1939. Taxonomic notes on sharks and rays. The Australian Zoologist 9(3): 227-262 figs 1-18 pls 20-22 See ref at BHL

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. (as Raja cerva)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37031003

Conservation:IUCN Near Threatened

Depth:20–470 m

Habitat:Soft sediment areas

Max Size:66 cm TL


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