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


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

Identifying features:
•Grey to greyish-brown above with irregularly whitish flecks; underside whitish, sometimes with greyish areas;
•Juveniles with a large dark blotch on each side of the disc; sometimes a few smaller blotches near the rear of the disc;
•Disc almost quadrangular, snout broad, tail shorter than disc, with two small dorsal fins at rear;
•One or more thorns on midline behind eyes; rows of thorns along midline and sides of tail;
•Disc covered in fine granular denticles.

Video of a Melbourne Skate in Port Phillip

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

Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi (Iredale 1938)

More Info


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

The Melbourne Skate is one of the few skates to live on hard bottoms around reefs, although it also occurs on soft bottoms.


Disc weakly 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 short, length 75% precloacal length, very depressed, broad; lateral skin fold prominent, extending close to tail apex; clasper elongate, bulbous distally.


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.

  • Species Citation

    Raja whitleyi Iredale, 1938, Aust. Zool., 9(2): 169. Type locality: Port Phillip Bay.


    Bray, D.J. 2021


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Australian Faunal Directory
    Catalog of Fishes

    Melbourne Skate, Spiniraja whitleyi (Iredale 1938)


    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

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

    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.

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

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

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

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

    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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