The African wedgefish is a large species of ray that is now very rare. It is found off the West coast of Africa, but little is known about this species and numbers are thought to have declined dramatically.
Very little is known about the biology of the African wedgefish. It is an aplacental viviparous species: with embryos gaining nutrients from yolk while still inside their mother, before being born as live young. Due to their large size, scientists assume they have slow growth and fecundity like other large elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fishes – whose skeleton is made of cartilage rather than bone). By looking at other similar species such as R. djiddensis scientists believe the African wedgefish gives birth to around four pups per litter.
This family, the Rhynchobatids are among the most vulnerable chondrichthyan (cartilaginous) fishes because of their susceptibility to being caught in fishing gear in inshore habitats. Marine exploitation is intense in parts of West Africa and it is only set to increase as the human population increases in the area. There have been significant declines of the African wedgefish over the past few decades due to both, targeted fisheries and incidental caught benthic trawling, gill netting and longlining. Habitat degradation from human activities may also be a threat.
There are currently no conservation actions in place for the African wedgefish, although there are Marine Reserves in part of its range which may offer some protection. According to the IUCN Red List of threatened species, monitoring of catches and management of fisheries is essential in order to protect this species. Management plans should also be implemented in order to protect all chondrichthyan species in the area.
- Order: Rajiformes
- Family: Rhinobatidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 3m (?)
- Depth Range (m): 35m
The African wedgefish is found off the West coast of Africa from Mauritania to Angola.
Habitat and Ecology
The African wedgefish is restricted to inshore habitats. It is a demersal species – living close to the sea floor, preferring soft muddy or sandy bottoms.