Banded Guitarfish

Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryz exasperata

The Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryx exasperata, whose common Spanish name is guitarra rayada, is a species in the Guitarfish or Rhinobatidae Family, known collectively as guitarras in Mexico. There are only three global members of the genus Zapteryx, two of which two are found in Mexican waters, both in the Pacific.

The Banded Guitarfish have slender bodies and large triangular heads that taper to a pointed blunt snout and incorporate the fused pectoral fins. They are an overall brown color with irregular blotching and dark crossbars (after which they are named); their color quickly fades to a uniform brown upon collection. Their blind side is off-white and the tips of their pectoral fins are black (a key to identification). Their head is relatively broad with a short blunt snout, a large spiracle behind each eye, and two cartilaginous ridges running forward from the inner edges of their eyes. There is a row of thorns that runs along the mid-back from behind their eyes to the origin of their first dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is asymmetrical and without a distinct lower lobe. They have two large triangular-shaped dorsal fins of equal size.

The Banded Guitarfish are bottom dwellers found over sandy and muddy bottoms in bays and estuaries at depths up to 655 feet. They reach a maximum length of 1.25 meters (4 feet 1 inch) with the discs being longer than they are wide. They consume a wide variety of crustaceans and small fish. They are masters at camouflage and have the ability to rapidly change colors to match their substrate. Reproduction is via yolk sac with offspring born alive in litter sizes of four to twenty eight.

In Mexican waters the Banded Guitarfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from of along the coast of the mainland from Mazatlán south to Guatemala.

The Banded Guitarfish is most likely confused with the Witch Guitarfish, Zapteryx xyster (found only south of Mazatlán; two pairs of yellow ocellated spots on the back).

The Banded Guitarfish are caught primarily as a by-catch of benthic fisheries and deemed to be of poor food quality and normally returned to the sea but some are retained and made into fish meal. The Banded Guitarfish is considered to be harmless to humans.

Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryx exasperata, still born fetus. Fish provided by an 85 cm (33 inch) female caught in coastal waters off El Tule, Baja California Sur,  April 2011. Length: 12.4 cm (4.9 inches). An exception pictorial example of reproduction via yolk-sac viviparous.

Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryx exasperata, still born fetus. Fish provided by an 85 cm (33 inch) female caught in coastal waters off El Tule, Baja California Sur,  April 2011. Length: 12.8 cm (5.0 inches).

Banded Guitarfish (1)

Banded Guitarfish (2)

Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryx exasperata, juvenile.  Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, December 2010. Length: 17 cm (6.7 inches).

Banded Guitarfish, Zapteryx exasperata. Underwater photo taken in coastal waters off La Jolla, CA, August 2016. Length: 61 cm (24 inches). Photo courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.