|Image: LASZLO ILYES|
No, I don't get it either.
Nevertheless, let's look at some Guitarfish!
|Image: Steve Jurvetson|
Southern Banded Guitarfish (Zapteryx exasperata)
Guitarfish are named for their vaguely guitar-like shape.
|Image: Richard Ling|
Eastern Shovelnose Ray (Aptychotrema rostrata)
|Image: Richard Ling|
Eastern Fiddler Ray (Trygonorrhina fasciata)
Guitarfish have really big pectoral fins, but they're not quite as enormous as those of rays. They also have a long, strong tail with sufficiently large dorsal and tail fins to actually be useful for swimming. This is different from so many rays and skates that have tails too spindly to be of much use and swim using their giant pectoral fins, instead.
|Image: Adam Fagen|
Shovelnose Guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus)
Apparently batis comes from the Greek for "ray" or "stingray", by the way. All the other bats have a very different etymology.
So, like most other batoids Guitarfish spend much of their time relaxing on the sea floor. Especially parts of the sea floor that are soft and comfortable because of a liberal covering of sand or mud. Their mouth and gills are both located on the underside of their head, which is great for gobbling up worms and shellfish from the bottom of the sea.
|Image: Richard Ling|
Eye and spiracle
This is different from sharks, who breathe more through their mouth. Some sharks don't have any spiracles at all... not good if your mouth spends all its time on the sea floor. I'm sure the itchiness from sand in the gills would be unbearable. That stuff gets everywhere and stays there.
Common Guitarfish (Rhinobato rhinobatos)
That's pretty normal for Guitarfish; many of them are about a metre (3 feet) long and most warm, shallow waters across the world have a few species near the coast.
Video: Earth Touch
But then you have others like the Clubnose Guitarfish (Glaucostegus thouin) which can reach 3 metres (10 ft) long in its Indo-Pacific home. Another one called Aptychotrema timorensis has only been caught once off the coast of northern Australia. It was a 59 cm (2 ft) individual picked up from a depth of 125 metres (400 ft), quite far from the coast. And Rhinobatos salalah is known only from a 54 cm (1.8 ft) specimen spotted in a fish market in Oman. It hasn't been seen since.
Aside from the Rhinobatids there are three other groups of Guitarfish, all of which were once placed within Rhinobatidae and sometimes still are. Basically, the people who study these things haven't made their mind up yet. At least everyone agrees that they all have extremely impressive noses, since all the names involve rhino which comes from the Greek for "nose" or "snout".
|Image: Brian Gratwicke|
Giant Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis). Rhynchobatids upgrade the dorsal and tail fins
It must be weird to be one of those other Guitarfish who are little more than 2 feet long. Imagine if there was a species of giant humans who's newborns were 5 feet tall!
Fanray (Platyrhina sinensis)
|Image: Ed Bierman|
Thornback Guitarfish (Platyrhinoidis triseriata)
The differences between skates and rays are subtle but visible. It may be prudent to learn them and avoid offense.
Bowmouth Guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma)
This one's on the other end of the scale compared to the Thornbacks since they look the most like a shark with a mangled face. They have a robust body with the kind of big, well-developed fins of a fish that's well accustomed to swimming and wouldn't dream of spending the day lounging on the seabed.
They do in fact lounge on the seabed quite a lot but they also have a huge range from Australia to Japan to India and down to South Africa. So they seem to get around.
Includes the pointy snout of what look like a Rynchobatid
Affixed to this bulky, powerful body is a squished and squashed head. Looking at them from the side there's a distinct hunchback before the head suddenly attenuates in a sloping brow. This is not the kind of profile that inspires sympathy from the jury. Viewed from the front you can see the tip of their face undulate in a lazy W (ancylostoma means "curved mouth", so at least they had one idea).
Rows of bony thorns cover the head like facial knuckledusters that increase the damage dealt by defensive head butts. Sort of similar but sort of opposite to the Thornbacks.
|Image: Heather Paul|
All in all, Bowmouths look rather brutish. But they also look like they're probably very gentle. A sort of friendly ogre. Or a retired boxer who became a nanny and learned how to love in a heart-warming but ultimately rubbish movie from the 80's.
But even the friendliest ogres have to eat! They descend on bottom-dwelling fish, molluscs or crustaceans, trap them beneath their massive head and wide pectoral fins, and direct their victim to the mouth. Once inside, it'll be crushed and crunched by that peculiar array of blunt, cobblestone teeth.
Appetite duly sated, perhaps our giant, curvy-mouthed, snout-guitar will tell us a joke?
|Image: Bobo Boom|
No, I still don't get it.