Ecosystem-based management requires sound information on the distribution and abundance of species both common and rare. Therefore, the accurate identification for all marine species has assumed a much greater importance. The identification of many skate species is difficult as several are easily confused and has been found to be problematic in both survey data and fisheries data collection. Identification guides, in combination with training and periodic validation of taxonomic information, improve our accuracy in monitoring data required for ecosystem-based management and monitoring of populations. This guide offers a comparative synthesis of skate species known to occur in Atlantic Canada and adjacent regions. The taxonomic nomenclature and descriptions of key morphological features are based on the most up-to-date understanding of diversity among these species. Although this information will aid the user in accurate identification, some features vary geographically (such as colour) and others with life stage (most notably the proportion of tail length to body length; the presence of spines either sharper in juveniles or in some cases not yet present; and also increases in the number of tooth rows as species grow into maturity). Additional information on juvenile features are needed to facilitate problematic identifications (e.g. L. erinacea vs. L. ocellata). Information on size at maturity is still required for many of these species throughout their geographic distribution.
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