Barbed spine mystery

December 2008

Spine from Fork-tailed Catfish. 

Young David Jew was fossicking around the Shorncliffe foreshore recently when he stumbled across an unusual spine. He suspected that it was a spine from a Stingray. To check his identification he contacted the Queensland Museum Inquiry Centre.

Answer

While this specimen might easily be mistaken for a Stingray spine, it is in fact from a different type of fish altogether: a Fork-tailed Catfish (Arius graeffei). Stingrays (cartilaginous fish closely related to sharks) do have barbs on their tails but these lack the distinct point of articulation seen at the base of the spine in the image shown here. Catfish, unlike rays, are bony fish. They have a single large serrated spine in their first dorsal (or upper) fin and each pectoral (or side) fin. Both catfish and stingrays use their spines for defence.

Great photo, and thanks for sending it to the Queensland Museum!

Stingray Spine

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