Image: Sylke Rohrlach
Community type

Tidal flats

Habitat type

Saltmarsh and tidal flats

Skates normally occur in deeper waters, but the thornback Dipturus lemrprieri, and Whitley’s or Wedgenose Skate Dipturus whitleyi are common in the Derwent estuary, and are regularly seen in very shallow waters. Skates can be distinguished from rays as they have two small dorsal fins near the end of their tail. The eagle ray Myliobatis australis is the most common ray in the Derwent estuary, and they often swim into ankle deep water, so shallow that their wings protrude from the waters surface. Skates, rays and sharks are all closely related to each other, and are cartilaginous fish – meaning their skeleton is made from cartilage rather than bone. Skates and rays often have patterned skin which provides camouflage against sandy sediments. They glide over the sediment feeding on crabs and molluscs and shallow burrowing animals. Skates and rays are also protected in Shark Refuge Area’s, meaning that the taking of sharks, skates or rays is prohibited within the Derwent Shark Refuge Area.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.