The reproductive cycle of the thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) in the western Gulf of Maine

James A. Sulikowski, Jeff Kneebone, Scott Elzey, Joe Jurek, Patrick D. Danley, W. Huntting Howell, Paul C.W. Tsang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) is a large species of skate that is endemic to the waters of the western north Atlantic in the Gulf of Maine. Because the biomass of thorny skates has recently declined below threshold levels mandated by the Sustainable Fisheries Act, commercial harvests from this region are prohibited. We have undertaken a comprehensive study to gain insight into the life history of this skate. The present study describes and characterizes the reproductive cycle of female and male thorny skates, based on monthly samples taken off the coast of New Hampshire, from May 2001 to May 2003. Gonadosomatic index (GSI), shell gland weight, follicle size, and egg case formation, were assessed for 48 female skates. In general, these reproductive parameters remained relatively constant throughout most of the year. However, transient but significant increases in shell gland weight and GSI were observed during certain months. Within the cohort of specimens sampled monthly throughout the year, a subset of females always had large preovulatory follicles present in their ovaries. With the exception of June and September specimens, egg cases undergoing various stages of development were observed in the uteri of specimens captured during all other months of the year. For males (n=48), histological stages III through VI (SIII-SVI) of spermatogenesis, GSI, and hepatosomatic index (HSI) were examined. Although there appeared to be monthly fluctuations in spermatogenesis, GSI, and HSI, no significant differences were found. The production and maintenance of mature spermatocysts (SVI) within the testes was observed throughout the year. These findings collectively indicate that the thorny skate is reproductively active year round.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-543
Number of pages8
JournalFishery Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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