American Oceans
Stingrays swimming

How to Tell the Difference Between a Skate and Stingray

Skates and stingrays are easily confused animals due to their similar appearance and the fact that they belong to the same class. 

So what are the differences between a skate and stingray? And how can you tell them apart?

Keep reading to find out!

The Same Class 

As mentioned above, skates and stingrays belong to the same class. As a result, they are often confused. 

Skates and stingrays belong to the class chondrichthyes. This class contains all cartilaginous fishes. 

You may be wondering, what is a cartilaginous fish? Well, this type of fish has a skeleton that is made mainly of cartilage.

The chondrichthyes class not only contains skates and stingrays, but also sharks. 

Similarities Between Stingrays & Skates

Skate Fins

So, now that we know skates and stingrays belong to the same class, let’s talk about some of their similar and unique characteristics. 

Let’s explore the features they have in common first. As previously noted, skates and stingrays look very similar to one another. 

This is because they are both flat, greyish in color, and have gills and mouths on the underside of their bodies. 

In addition to appearance, skates and stingrays have some similar behavioral traits. This includes being bottom dwellers, meaning they are found on the ocean floor. 

Also, both animals will camouflage themselves from danger by burying their bodies in the sand. 

Though these similarities may make it seem difficult to differentiate these sea creatures, there are a few sure-fire ways to distinguish each animal. 

Stingray Fins

Differences Between Skates & Stingrays

Perhaps the easiest way to tell skates and stingrays apart is by looking at their tails. As you may know, stingrays have the ability to sting, through something called a stinging barb which can be found on their tail. 

Skates, on the other hand, do not have a stinging barb anywhere. They do, however, have spikes or thorn-like structures along their back

Another physical difference between these animals is their fins. The pelvic fins, or the ones closest to their tails, look a bit different. 

On stingrays, the pelvic fins only have one lobe whereas those of the skate has two lobes.

Lastly, skates and stingrays reproduce differently. This, of course, is less likely to be observed but is an important distinction to note. 

Stingrays give birth to live offspring whereas skates lay eggs.

In fact, skate eggs are actually very unique in appearance. These eggs are black and rectangular with arm-like extensions. Interestingly, they are often referred to as mermaid purses!

Mermaid's purse

Final Thoughts

Though at first, it may be hard to tell the difference between a skate and stingray, it is clear these animals have some unique features that separate them. 

It can be interesting to see how similar many animals are to one another while they’re also very different. 

So, the next time you see a flat, bottom-dwelling creature, you should be able to tell if it’s a skate or stingray in no time!

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