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How to Identify Elasmobranchs?

Every Elasmobranch species have their own unique characteristics. Some can be easily differentiated, while some are difficult. However it is quite easy to differentiate between shark, ray and skate, and chimaera.

This key characteristic is an important differentiator as some shark species resemble ray and skate, and vice versa. Meanwhile, chimaera can be recognized in a glance due to their unique morphology.


Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
(source: pixabay)


Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari)
(source: pixabay)


Pale Chimaera (Hydrolagus pallidus)
(source: pixabay)

There are identification guides and books that you can use to identify elasmobranchs

The following are identification guides and books recommended by Elasmobranch Project Indonesia:

All Elasmobranchs

White et al. (2006) - Economically Important Sharks & Rays of Indonesia

Identifying sharks and rays: A guide for NSW commercial fishers

Rays (Wedgefish and Guitarfish)

Jabado (2019) - Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes: a guide to species identification

Rays (Manta and Mobula)

Manta Trust - Field Guide to the Identification of Mobulid Rays (Mobulidae): Indo-West Pacific

Manta Trust - Field Identification Guide of the Prebranchial Appendages (Gill Plates) of Mobulid Rays for Law Enforcement and Trade Monitoring Applications

Manta Trust - Photo Identification Guide: Gill Rakers of Manta and Mobula Rays