Smalleyed ray (Raja microocellata)

Smalleyed ray swimming
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Smalleyed ray fact file

Smalleyed ray description

GenusRaja (1)

Like other skates and rays, the most notable feature of the smalleyed ray (Raja microocellata) is its large pectoral fins that provide gentle propulsion through the water (3). From above, the smalleyed ray appears rhomboid in shape (4), with greyish, olive or pale brown skin patterned with thin light streaks (2). Its snout is slightly pointed (4), and the underside, where the mouth is situated (3), is white (2). The long tail is slender (5), and contains muscles capable of emitting weak electrical discharges (6).

Also known as
painted ray, small-eyed ray.
Disc width: 80 cm (2)
4.5 kg (2)

Smalleyed ray biology

Smalleyed rays are carnivorous fish that prey on small fish that dwell on the sea bottom (3) (8), using their interlocking teeth to grasp and crush the food (3). The weak electrical discharges that rays are capable of producing are thought to be used in interactions with other rays, as electrical activity is more frequent when they are in pairs or groups rather than solitary (6).

The smalleyed ray breeds in summer in the English Channel (2), producing eggs encased in a horny oblong case with four stiff, pointed tips (5) (8). A female lays between 54 and 61 eggs each year, depositing the precious capsules in sandy or muddy flats (8).


Smalleyed ray range

Occurs along the Atlantic coast of northwest Europe, from Gibraltar to the British Isles, the smalleyed ray is only abundant at a few sites, such as the Bristol Channel, UK, and Bertheaume Bay, France (1).

See this species on Google Earth.


Smalleyed ray habitat

The smalleyed ray inhabits inshore and coastal waters (2), favouring sandy bays and sandbanks (1) (7).


Smalleyed ray status

The smalleyed ray is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Smalleyed ray threats

Smalleyed rays are both gamefish and a minor component of commercial fisheries (8), and their patchy distribution and localised abundance may make this species vulnerable to over-fishing. In addition, a preference for inshore and coastal habitat makes it more susceptible to habitat degradation and other human disturbances (1).


Smalleyed ray conservation

At present, there are no specific conservation measures targeting the smalleyed ray, although there is a minimum landing size of 40 centimetres for skates and rays in the inshore waters of south Wales (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the conservation of sharks and rays: 



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Animals without a backbone.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Miller, P.J. and Loates, M.J. (1997) Fishes of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  3. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  4. ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research (October, 2007)
  5. Nelson, J.S. (1994) Fishes of the World. Third edition. John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York.
  6. Evans, D.H. and Claiborne, J.B. (2006) The Physiology of Fishes. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
  7. Kaiser, M.J., Bergmann, M., Hinz, H., Galanidi, M., Shucksmith, R., Rees, E.I.S., Darbyshire, T. and Ramsay, K. (2004) Demersal fish and epifauna associated with sandbank habitats. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 60: 445 - 456.
  8. FishBase (April, 2008)

Image credit

Smalleyed ray swimming  
Smalleyed ray swimming

© P. Morris /

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