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Torpedo nobiliana

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA CHONDRICHTHYES RAJIFORMES TORPEDINIDAE

Scientific Name: Torpedo nobiliana
Species Authority: Bonaparte, 1835
Common Name(s):
English Great Torpedo Ray, Atlantic Electric Ray, Black Torpedo, Atlantic Torpedo
French Torpille Noire
Spanish Tremolina Negra
Taxonomic Notes: The name as allocated to the southern African material is provisional. Work underway suggests that there may be a tropical species from off southern Mozambique that is more similar to true T. nobiliana from the North Atlantic than to specimens from Namibia and the Cape. Work is underway to clarify the taxonomy of the Indian Ocean species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2004-09-07
Assessor(s): Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Serena, F., Ungaro, N., Ferretti, F., Holtzhausen, H.A. & Smale, M.J.
Reviewer(s): Cavanagh, R.D., Ebert, D.A. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)
Justification:
The Great Torpedo Ray (Torpedo nobiliana) has a relatively wide range in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Mediterranean Sea. Adults are frequently pelagic or semi-pelagic, from near the surface to 800 m depth, whereas juveniles are mainly benthic living on soft-substrate and coral reef habitat in shallower water. Very little data are available on population or catch trends, although surveys suggest that this species is rare in the Mediterranean Sea. When caught, torpedo rays are usually discarded at sea, resulting in very little data on catches of these species. The Great Torpedo Ray is caught with bottom trawls and line gear and further research is required to determine the impact of fishing activities on the species. Destruction and degradation of the species' shallow water nursery grounds may threaten juveniles. At present this species is assessed as Data Deficient globally due to very little information on catches and population trends.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species has a wide distribution in the Atlantic Ocean. Western Atlantic: from Nova Scotia, Canada, south to Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: from Scotland (rare in North Sea), south to Morocco, including the Mediterranean Sea, and from Mauritania to the Gulf of Guinea, and Namibia to Mossel Bay in South Africa (Whitehead et al. 1984, Florida Museum of Natural History).
Countries:
Native:
Albania; Algeria; Belize; Benin; Brazil (Pará); Canada (Nova Scotia); Colombia (Colombia (mainland)); Costa Rica (Costa Rica (mainland)); Côte d'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Egypt (Egypt (African part)); France (Corsica, France (mainland)); French Guiana; Gambia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece (Greece (mainland), Kriti); Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Honduras (Honduras (mainland)); Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Liberia; Libya; Mauritania; Mexico (Campeche, Morelos, Veracruz, Yucatán); Morocco; Namibia (Namibia (main part)); Nicaragua (Nicaragua (mainland)); Nigeria; Panama; Portugal (Azores, Madeira, Portugal (mainland)); Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, Northern Cape Province, Western Cape); Spain (Spain (mainland)); Suriname; Syrian Arab Republic; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; United Kingdom (Great Britain); United States (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia); Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of (Venezuela (mainland)); Western Sahara
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – western central; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Few data are available on population trends in this species across its range. Data from trawl surveys suggest that Torpedo nobiliana is relatively rare in the Mediterranean Sea, with a low frequency of occurrence in bottom trawl surveys. It was captured in 73 of 6,336 hauls conducted throughout the northern Mediterranean during MEDITS surveys from 1994-1999 at depths of 10-800m, and appears to be more common in the western basin (Baino et al. 2001). During GRUND scientific trawl surveys in Italian seas, this species was reported in low numbers from several locations along the Italian coast, including Sicily, Calabria, Gulf of Taranto, Sardinia and Northern Tyrrhenian sea. It is only very rarely recorded off Tuscany and Corsica (Relini et al. 2000, Betrand et al. 2000, Maiorano et al. 2000, Ferretti et al. 2005). Historical records report this species in the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea (D'Ancona and Razzauti 1937, Foresi 1939), Ligurian sea (Brunelli and Bini 1934, Ariola 1904) and Gulf of Lion (Aldebert 1997). It is difficult to evaluate previous trends in abundance as most of these reports are qualitative and do not specify catch rates for this species. In the Adriatic Sea, it is captured in small numbers, only in the extreme south and all records are juveniles (N. Ungaro pers. comm.).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species occurs from the surface to depths of ~800 m. Juveniles are mainly benthic occurring on soft substrates and coral reef habitats, from 10-50 m depth (although sometimes considerably deeper). Adults are frequently pelagic or semi-pelagic, swimming singly and reported migrating over great distances. Specimens captured in MEDITS surveys in the Mediterranean Sea were present throughout the depth range surveyed (10-800 m) but found mostly between 200-500 m (Baino et al. 2001). Reproduction is yolk-sac viviparity. This species reaches a maximum size of about 180 cm total length (TL) (McEachran and Carvalho 2002). Up to 60 embryos have been reported in large females, gestation period is about 12 months and size at birth is 20-25 cm TL (Whitehead et al. 1984, McEachran and Carvalho 2002). The diet is predominantly fish, sometimes quite large.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is occasionally caught with bottom trawls and line gear, including recreational fisheries. Torpedo rays are usually discarded at sea, resulting in very little data on catches of these species. Historically this species was valued for its liver oil for use in lamps, prior to the use of kerosene oil, but a lack of data on catches makes it difficult to determine population trends (Florida Museum of Natural History). This is a large, potentially vulnerable species, and the impact of bycatch on populations needs to be assessed. The species' preference for reef environments for spawning may make it vulnerable to the indirect effects of habitat degradation from destructive bottom trawling practices.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Accurate monitoring of catches and research on historical abundance is needed to determine the status of populations of this species. Further research is also required on life-history.

Citation: Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Serena, F., Ungaro, N., Ferretti, F., Holtzhausen, H.A. & Smale, M.J. 2009. Torpedo nobiliana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 October 2014.
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