Built to bottom feed
Typical of rays, a guitarfish's gills slits and mouth are located on the underside of the body. Unlike the tooth-rimmed gaping maw of their distant relatives, the sharks, bottom-feeding guitarfishes' mouths are only visible from underneath and consist of bony plates that crush crab and clam shells. White-spotted guitarfish also dine on lobsters and assorted smaller fish species.
What's in a name?
Like many other fishes, white-spotted guitarfish go by more than one common name. In some countries, they're called white-spotted wedgefish or bottlenose wedgefish. The best way to avoid confusion is to refer to the species by its universal scientific name, Rhynchobatus australiae. Shedd's 9-foot guitarfish has an additional name: Lucille, after blues great B.B. King's famed guitar. But informality reigns at Shedd, and the Wild Reef husbandry staffers call her Lucy.
White-spotted guitarfish are native to inshore waters throughout the Indo-Pacific, from shallow reefs down to 200 feet. That's the same territory where trawlers and other fishing boats abound. Nets are the greatest threat to these large, angular fish, which easily get entangled and drown. They are also hunted, sometimes illegally, for their fins. White-spotted guitarfish populations are declining, and the species has been assessed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, meaning white-spotted guitarfish face an extremely high risk of extinction. Few conservation initiatives, such as recovery programs, management plans, or fishing regulations, exist for these fish.