Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi (Iredale 1938)

Other Names: Great Skate, Rough Skate, Wedgenose Skate, Wedge-nosed Skate, Whitleys Skate, Whitley's Skate

A Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi, in Port Davey, Tasmania, February 2013. Source: Ian Shaw / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A large grey to greyish-brown skate with irregularly whitish flecks, and a whitish underside, sometimes with greyish areas. Juveniles have a large dark blotch on each side of the disc, and may have a few smaller blotches near the rear of the disc.

The species has thorns along the midline behind the eyes, and rows of thorns along the midline and sides of the tail.

This is the largest Australian skate, which is occasionally taken by anglers and commercial fishers in southern Australia. Although skates lack venomous spines, the rows of large thorns along the tail may inflict a painful injury. Care should be taken when removing large individuals from fishing gear.

Video of a Melbourne Skate in Port Phillip

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Spiniraja whitleyi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi (Iredale 1938)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia and widely distributed on the continental shelf from about Sydney, New South Wales, to about Albany, Western Australia, including around Tasmania.

One of the few skates to inhabits both rocky and soft sediment areas near reefs.


Disc almost quadrangular; snout broad, of moderate length; orbital diameter 14–19% of preorbital length; orbital and malar thorns absent; sometimes 1–4 small thorns in series on nuchal and suprascapular region; tail shorter than disc, length 75% precloacal length, very depressed, broad; lateral skin fold prominent, extending close to tail apex; two small dorsal fins at rear of tail; clasper elongate, bulbous distally.

Disc covered in fine granular denticles; one or more thorns on midline behind eyes; rows of thorns along midline and sides of tail.


Greyish or greyish brown dorsally, with irregularly spaced white flecks; juveniles with large dark blotch on each side of disc, sometimes with few smaller blotches posteriorly; cream or white ventrally, sometimes with greyish areas.


Feeds on bony fishes, cephalopods (especially octopus) and crabs.


Skates are egg layers and females produce rectangular egg cases with horn-like extensions on the corners - measuring about 22 x 14 cm (excluding the horns).


Young and sub-adults are taken as bycatch in the Southern and eastern Scalefish and Shark fishery. Large individuals are also taken on hook and line, but also in gill nets.

Sometimes marketed fresh in Australia.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Vulnerable

    Graham et al. (2001) recorded major declines in catch rates off New South Wales between 1976-1997.

  • Etymology

    Named in honour of Iredale's colleague Gilbert Whitley, then Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum.

    Species Citation

    Raja whitleyi Iredale, 1938, Aust. Zool., 9(2): 169. Type locality: Manly Beach, Port Jackson, New South Wales (replacement name for Raja scabra Ogilby 1888, a name preoccupied by Raja scabra Linnaeus 1764).


    Bray, D.J. 2021


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi (Iredale 1938)


    Castelnau, F.L. de 1873. Intercolonial Exhibition Essays, 1872–3. No 5. Notes on the edible fishes of Victoria. pp. 1–17 in, London International Exhibition of 1873 : Official Record. Melbourne. Type data: Status unknown, whereabouts unknown, Melbourne, VIC. (described from Melbourne, Victoria, as Raya rostrata a name preoccupied by R. rostrata Shaw & Nodder 1794, R. rostrata Lacépède 1802, and Raia rostrata Risso 1826)

    Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp.

    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.

    Graham, K.J., Andrew, N.L. & Hodgson, K.E. 2001. Changes in the relative abundances of sharks and rays on Australian South East Fishery trawl grounds after twenty years of fishing. Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 52: 549-561.

    Iredale, T. 1938. Raja whitleyi, the great skate. The Australian Zoologist 9(2): 169 See ref at BHL

    Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. (as Raja whitleyi)

    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 whitleyi)

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

    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 whitleyi)

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

    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 Dipterus whitleyi)

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

    Ogilby, J.D. 1888. Catalogue of the fishes in the collection of the Australian Museum. Part 1. Recent Palaeichthyan fishes. Australian Museum Catalogue 14: 1-26 (as Raia scabra, a new name Raja rostrata Castelnau, 1873; however preoccupied by Raja scabra Linnaeus 1764).

    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 whitleyi)

    Whitley, G.P. 1939. Taxonomic notes on sharks and rays. The Australian Zoologist 9(3): 227-262 figs 1-18 pls 20-22 (as Raja (Spiniraja) ogilbyi

    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 Spiniraja ogilbyi)

    Treloar, M.A. 2009. Spiniraja whitleyi. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 08 November 2012.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37031006

    Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable

    Danger:Thorny tail

    Depth:1-345 m

    Habitat:Soft & hard bottoms

    Max Size:170 cm TL; 50 kg

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    CAAB distribution map