Recently I happened to drift across an Atlantic Guitarfish. After several thousand dives in the Caribbean it is not often you find a new fish or invertebrate. Uncommon sightings? Sure. Completely new, never before seen by you? Not so much. However, when this does happen, you can be assured my dive buddies know I’m excited. I dance around and high five the nearby divers. Such was the case recently when we drifted across the Atlantic Guitarfish.
The group had just finished the drift of Santa Rosa wall and as the NDL drew closer I moved the group up over the sand flat. In the distance is a small inner reef at around 35 feet which is nice to finish the dive but first we must cross a barren sand patch. I also have my eyes on the look out for the usual sand critters -- stingrays, mantis shrimp, etc., but on this day I saw three dorsal fins sticking up. I knew what it was immediately and went into the Henry Happy Dance while I received strange looks from my dive buddies.
After gathering myself I pointed out to the group the three dorsal fins sticking up and the front face buried with just the eyes above the sand.
After everyone had the chance to see the fish while buried I “tickled” the sand behind it’s tail (no touching!) to encourage it to leave it’s camouflage behind. Unfortunately this one didn’t stick around, instead make a very quick exit.
The Atlantic Guitarfish (Rhinobatos lentiginosus) is rarely found as far south as the Yucatan and Cozumel. Whereas this is likely a common sighting for divers from Florida through Texas, its just not so down here. You won’t find them in Belize or further south and when I showed my video to a couple of local Divemasters, each having over 20 years diving Cozumel, none had seen this fish before. As you can tell from the above image the fish appears to be part ray and part shark. It’s head is diamond-shaped like a ray while it’s tale is distinctly shark-like. In fact, when it swims, it sure looks like any nurse shark I’ve seen swimming.
Atlantic Guitarfish Video
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