Bottlenose Wedgefish, White-spotted Guitarfish, White-spotted Wedgefish.
A large wedgefish with an acutely pointed, ‘bottle-shaped’ snout. Snout length 3.4-4.4 x orbit length. Eyes large. Spiracles with 2 prominent, equally-sized skin-folds. Anterior margins of disc weakly undulate. Pectoral fin apices angular, posterior margins straight or weakly concave. Small, low thorns present along midline, in 2-3 short rows on shoulders, and around eyes and above spiracles.
Dorsal fins tall and strongly falcate. First dorsal fin much larger than second, origin slightly posterior to pelvic fin origins. Caudal fin large with a well-defined lower lobe. Lateral keel present along posterior flank to caudal base.
Dorsum pale grey to brown, with 2-4 sparse rows of small white spots along flanks. Small (approximately eye-sized) dark ocelli sometimes present on flank above pectoral fin, with 3 white spots above and 2 below. Markings may be indistinct or completely absent. Ventrum white, often with small dark spots near tip of snout.
Maximum length 300cm. Size at birth 46-50cm.
Tropical seas. Demersal on soft substrates and coral reefs. From close inshore to at least 60m.
Ind0-West Pacific. Recorded from Mozambique through the Western Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and throughout Southeast Asia from Taiwan to northern Australia, and east to the Solomon Islands.
The ‘white’ fins of shark-like rays (including sawfishes, wedgefishes, and giant guitarfishes) are considered the best quality fins for human consumption and are among the highest valued in the international shark fin trade. The meat is of high quality and generally consumed locally. There is a high level of fisheries resource use and increasing fishing pressure across the range of the Bottlenose Wedgefish, and as a result, targeted and incidental fishing effort is placing significant pressure on all wedgefish species in the Indo-West Pacific. Where wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes have been targeted or exploited as incidental catch, severe declines, population depletions, and localized disappearances have occurred. Severe population reduction in the Bottlenose Wedgefish is inferred from actual levels of exploitation, as well as several historical accounts and contemporary datasets from Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, and Indonesia. While some parts of Australasia provide refuge from intense fishing effort, this proportion of the species’ range is not considered to be large enough relative to the global range to lower the assessment. It is inferred that the Bottlenose Wedgefish has undergone a >80% population reduction over the last three generations (45 years) and it is assessed as Critically Endangered A2bd.
Kyne, P.M., Rigby, C.L., Dharmadi & Jabado, R.W. 2019. Rhynchobatus australiae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T41853A68643043. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T41853A68643043.en. Downloaded on 10 May 2021.
Aplacental lecithotrophic viviparous. Litter size 7-19.
Feeds on demersal fishes, crustaceans, and molluscs.
Known to congregate near reef sites in eastern Australia.
Reaction to divers
Generally moves away if approached closely.
Due to overfishing, the bottlenose wedgefish is rarely encountered outside of Australia. Within Australia, it is commonly encountered mostly at dive sites in Queensland such as Manta Bommie near Brisbane.
Whitespotted Wedgefish Distinguishable by slightly straighter anterior margins of disc, larger ocelli, and denser covering of white spots running in rows from ocelli to tail.
Smoothnose Wedgefish Distinguishable by straighter anterior margins of disc, more broadly rounded snout tip, and larger ocelli.