StatisticsLength: Up to 139cm Weight: Up to 18kg Average Lifespan: Can live for around 15 years
When to seeJanuary to December
AboutClosely related to sharks, rays also have a soft cartilage skeleton. Their grossly oversized pectoral fins give them their distinct diamond shape and act a bit like underwater wings. Thornback rays are found around all British coasts and feed mainly on crustaceans though they are not above taking any fish that swims a little too close! The thornback ray likes to bury itself in the sediment during the day and come out at dusk to hunt.
How to identifyWith a distinctive kite shaped body, the thornback ray can also be recognised by its blotchy brown or grey back and collection of 'thorns' on its back and tail. Some other ray species also have thorns but the thornback ray has the biggest.
In our area
The Thornback Ray is the most commonly found ray throughout the Irish and British coast! Donegal coast would be the best place to see this species out in the ocean, especially around Lough Swilly! ICES, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, considers the main populations of Thornback rays to be found off northwest Ireland and in the Irish and Celtic seas.
As common as this species may be in some areas the population of Thornback rays has completely disappeared due to overfishing - the main cases being Belfast Lough and Deepwater Quay in Sligo.