Distribution and thermal niche of the common skate species complex in the North-East Atlantic

Michelle Frost, Francis C Neat, David Stirling, Victoria Bendall, Leslie R Noble, Catherine S Jones* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Temperature is one of the most significant variables affecting the geographic distribution and physiology of elasmobranchs. Differing thermal gradients across a species’ range can lead to adaptive divergence and differing developmental times, an important consideration for recruitment rates of exploited species. The critically endangered common skate (formerly Dipturus batis) has been divided into two species, the flapper skate (D. intermedius) and blue skate (D. batis), both of which have undergone dramatic population declines. Here we examine the environmental thermal and geographic distribution of these species, using observations from scientific trawling surveys and recreational angling around the British Isles. As similar sized specimens of the two species can be confused, we validated species identity using molecular genetic techniques. Both species had more extensive geographic ranges than previously reported and different spatial patterns of abundance. The
distribution of the blue skate appears to reflect its partiality to thermally less variable and warmer waters, while flapper skate were found in more variable and notably colder areas. The thermal range and current geographic distribution of these species indicate future projected climate change could have a differential impact on distribution of flapper and blue skate in the North-East Atlantic
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Our thanks go to Dr Cecila Pinto, and Ian Burrett (Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network) for sample collection, and Jose Gonzalez-Irusta for assisting with data analysis. This work received funding from the MASTS pooling initiative (The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland), and their support is gratefully acknowledged. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions. Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK (CEFAS) supplied samples and expertise under Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs, UK (DEFRA)funded ‘Common Skate Survey’ (ELECTRA project code C6516).


  • elasmobranch
  • Environmental variables
  • bottom temperature
  • Dipturus
  • flapper skate
  • blue skate
  • molecular markers


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