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Help identify a sea creature on shore


I am hoping someone can identify this sea creature that washed up on shore. It seems to have wings, a tail, legs and the face that resembles a large fish.  It's about 4 feet long.  

Emma, Montecito - March 29, 2024

Curator Response

Hi Emma,

Thank you for sending us your interesting beach find. We can see how it would look startling and outlandish to most!

From your pictures, it looks like that poor shrunken mess was once some kind of skate. Skates—and their close relatives rays and sharks—belong to the larger class of Chondrichthyes. These fish all have cartilage skeletons rather than bony ones.

Although the nose is buried in the sand, overall it looks like a Longnose Skate (Beringraja rhina, formerly Raja rhina). We can even tell that it’s a male. The appendages that look like legs at first glance are likely what ichthyologists call claspers. Fish in the class of Chondrichthyes have modified fins that transmit sperm, known as claspers. You might impress your friends by using this trait to spot male sharks, rays, and skates in aquaria and in the wild.

You can see a fantastic picture showing the underside of an undessicated male Longnose Skate on this website devoted to Mexican fish (the species has a long range along the northeast Pacific Coast).

Stay curious,

Research Associate Chris Thacker, Ph.D., and Sea Center Manager Roy Qi