Barndoor Skate

Creature Feature – Barndoor Skate

This week’s featured creature is the Barndoor Skate. 

Like more than 60 other skate species, barndoor skates are closely related to rays and more distantly to sharks. Skates are the most diverse lineage of the cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, and rays). Unlike rays though, skate tails have larger dorsal fins and no stinger. The barndoor skate is one of the largest species in the skate family.


Scientific Name: Dipturus laevis

Phylum: Chordata

Order: Rajiformes

Family: Rajidae

Genus: Dipturus

© Oceana

Barndoor Skate Fact File

? Size: Individuals typically measure from 75 to 125cm long but occasionally reach 150cm. They weigh around 13 to 17kg

? Distribution: This species can be found along the eastern coast of North America, extending from the warmer waters of North Carolina in the south to the colder waters north in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coast of Nova Scotia, and near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland

? Diet: Like most skates and rays, they live on the seafloor and hunt a variety of invertebrate and fish prey. They seem to eat just about anything and are even known to eat small sharks

? Behaviour: While slow-growing, barndoor skates live from 13 years up to 16 years of age. They mature between eight and 11 years of age when they are ready to reproduce. While rays give birth to live offspring, barndoor skate females produce single eggs and lay them in sandy ocean bottoms or mudflats. Spawning generally occurs in winter, and females produce from 40 to as many as 100 eggs every year

? IUCN Status: Endangered. They were once nearly fished to extinction in the late 1990s, but due to conservation efforts and improved fisheries management, the species survived. However, during the last 50 years, barndoor skates have been depleted by fisheries that target them or capture them accidentally when targeting other species (bycatch)