Named after its characteristic mouth which undulates like a longbow, this deep-bodied guitarfish is unique. The front part of this animal looks like a ray, with a flat, broad arc-shaped head. However, unlike a ray, they have pectoral fins and a caudal fin attached at the end of their tail with two different sized lobes. They have heavy ridges of spiky, sharp thorns on the bony ridges on the head giving them that almost prehistoric look that contrast with its human- like eyes!
To sum it up, it looks like a shark and a stingray went on a date at some point during their evolution and created this incredible creature. In fact, some scientists consider them to be ‘the missing link’ between these two different species. In reality, it’s a species of ray related to guitarfishes and skates, and the only member of the family Rhinidae.
Let’s see what else make them so fascinating.
Bowmouth guitarfish go through color changes as they age. Juvenile bowmouths are brown with pale spots and black bars behind the eyes, while adults are black/charcoal or dark blue in colour, with small pale spots, with the black bars fading as time goes on. The ventral side stays a creamy colour throughout the animal’s life. Biologists have observed their ability to adapt their coloration to their environment. Indeed, when they are swimming over a light sand, they tend to be lighter coloured, whilst they are swimming over a darker bottom, they become darker.
Bowmouth guitarfish eat crustaceans and molluscs, which live on the ocean floor. Their heavily-ridged teeth are like coffee grinders that crush prey with hard shells. Since their eyes are on top of their head, they use their sense of smell to identify their potential meal.
Divers can encounter them in shallow, coastal habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves. They frequent the waters of the Indo-West Pacific being spotted in the Red Sea and Maldives, among other places.
If you haven’t seen them yet, why don’t you book your next liveaboard dive trip with the Red Sea Master or the Maldives Master?