A critically endangered flapper skate, also known as the common skate, has been successfully cared for and hatched in an aquarium in Scotland, in what is thought to be a world-first for the species.
The skate egg, which has been looked after by researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), recently hatched at the SAMS aquarium after 18 months. The 27cm hatchling was released into a marine protected area soon after.
It is thought to be the first time a skate egg has been cared for from laying until hatching, and the researchers say they have now gained a better understanding of skate gestation, which will contribute greatly to future conservation efforts.
“We still know very little about the lives of flapper skate, for example how often they breed, and where and when they lay eggs. The total gestation of the egg was 535 days so it is similar to that of Orca and Sperm whales,” said Jane Dodd, a Marine Operations Officer.
“Knowing the length of time that eggs take to hatch is a really useful piece of information for understanding the life history of flapper skate which will in turn improve how we are able to protect them,” added Dodd.
Despite its name, the common skate is considered extinct throughout much of its traditional habitat range, with only a few strongholds of the species remaining on the west coast of Scotland. Its population was primarily driven down by overfishing and, as a result, the fish was declared critically endangered in 2006.