Maculabatis toshi 

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Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Myliobatiformes Dasyatidae

Scientific Name: Maculabatis toshi (Whitley, 1939)
Common Name(s):
English Brown Whipray
Himantura toshi Whitley, 1939
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. and Van der Laan, R. (eds). 2016. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 29 September 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 29 September 2016).
Taxonomic Notes: The genus Himantura has been further revised by Last et al. (2016). Himantura, which was once represented widely in the Indo–West Pacific by ~20 species, is now restricted to a group of four large Indo–Pacific species with strong colour patterns (Last et al. 2016). Himantura toshi is now within the newly erected genus Maculabatis, along with eight other medium to large marine whiprays that were previously placed in Himantura (Last et al. 2016).

The Brown Whipray (Himantura (=Maculabatis) toshi) had previously been confused with the Blackspotted Whipray (Himantura (=Maculabatis) astra) and the two forms had been considered to be a single species; however they are now known to be two morphologically distinct species. Himantura sp. A (sensu Last & Stevens, 1994) has been named H. toshi (Last and Stevens 2009), and Himantura toshi (sensu Last & Stevens, 1994) was renamed H. astra (Last and Stevens 2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-05-12
Assessor(s): Rigby, C. & Pierce, S.J.
Reviewer(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Kyne, P.M.
Contributor(s): Kyne, P.M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Kyne, P.M. & Walls, R.H.L.

This is an amended version of the 2015 assessment to accommodate the change in genus name from Himatura to Maculabatis.

The Brown Whipray (Maculabatis toshi) is a medium-sized whipray endemic to subtropical and tropical northern and eastern Australia. The species' preferred habitats are mangrove flats and muddy substrates, which, in eastern Australia have been considerably degraded in urban areas that are mostly restricted to the southern part of its east coast range. There is concern that this habitat degradation and their capture as bycatch in net and trawl fisheries are threatening processes, particularly as the species has not been recently collected from New South Wales. Populations of two sympatric batoid species, the Estuary Stingray (Hemitrygon fluviorum) and the Green Sawfish (Pristis zijsron), have significantly declined in the same habitat. The Brown Whipray, however, remains common in the urbanised Moreton Bay area of southeast Queensland and the majority of its habitat across eastern and northern Australia is not heavily urbanised. Accordingly, this ray is currently assessed as Least Concern, though the lack of knowledge of both its population status and its range in tropical waters, an absence of recent records from the southern limits of its range, together with the potential for increases in urbanisation over parts of its range, are of concern.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The Brown Whipray is endemic to inshore waters of eastern and northern Australia, from Darwin (Northern Territory) in the north to the Clarence River (New South Wales) in the south. However, its range across northern Australia is not well defined and requires clarification. It possibly extends to waters off northwest Australia south to Shark Bay in Western Australia (Vaudo and Heithaus 2009). In recent years it has not been recorded from its most southeast limits (Last and Stevens 2009).

Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – western central; Pacific – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):41
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


This whipray is common within its preferred habitat, for example, in intertidal sandflat habitats in Moreton Bay, Queensland (Pierce et al. 2011). However, there is no other information on its population size or trend. In recent years it has not been recorded from its most southeast limits (Last and Stevens 2009).

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Brown Whipray is most abundant in shallow inshore waters in 0–10 m depth, but has been recorded to 41 m depth (based on museum collection records and field observations; S. Pierce, unpubl. data, 2011). It is found mostly over muddy substrates and mangrove flats (Last and Stevens 2009). Little is known of its biology. It attains at least 74 cm disc width (DW) (Last and Stevens 2009). Male maturity occurs at approximately 53 cm DW in Moreton Bay, Queensland (Pierce et al. 2011). Tagging studies in Moreton Bay have shown that some individuals show high short-term site fidelity to intertidal sandflat habitats, with small (<30 cm DW) juveniles particularly common within this habitat (Pierce at al. 2011).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not known to be used or traded commercially.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

This ray is most common in shallow inshore habitats, which have been subject to substantial modification and degradation on the highly urbanised eastern coast of Australia. Populations of some sympatric elasmobranch species using these habitats, such as the Green Sawfish (Pristis zijsron) and the Estuary Stingray (Hemitrygon fluviorum), have been substantially reduced. The Brown Whipray is likely to be affected by many of the same threats as these species.

Specific assessment of the threats affecting this ray is hampered by the recent re-description of the species, as much of the existing literature appears to pertain to the related species now known as the Blackspotted Whipray (M. astra). Habitat modification of mangrove-fringed sandflats is likely to have reduced the carrying capacity of preferred habitat in some areas, and the Brown Whipray is regularly caught as a bycatch of inshore net and prawn-trawl fisheries in Queensland. For example, it is a regular bycatch in the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery, including in Hervey Bay, and central and north Queensland (Kyne 2008). Most large rivers in New South Wales are used by estuarine prawn-trawl fisheries and this species is a likely bycatch of these fisheries. It is caught in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF), a fishery that operates in the Gulf of Carpentaria and across northern Australia. Among the NPF elasmobranch bycatch, this species was considered to have a moderate sustainability to the effects of trawling (Stobutzki et al. 2002). Bycatch rays caught in the East Coast Trawl Fishery and the Northern Prawn Fishery are discarded, but post-release survivorship is not well understood.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no conservation actions currently in place for this species. It is a bycatch species, and research is required to improve knowledge of its population size, life history characteristics, and to confirm its range. The use of turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) and other bycatch reduction devices has significantly reduced the bycatch of rays, though more so for large individuals with >100 cm disc width and to a lesser degree for animals smaller than this, such as the Brown Whipray (Brewer et al. 2004). The species occurs in several marine protected areas, such as Moreton Bay Marine Park, Great Sandy Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.5. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.6. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Muddy
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.4. Marine Intertidal - Mud Flats and Salt Flats
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.7. Marine Intertidal - Mangrove Submerged Roots
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:No
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.2. Commercial & industrial areas
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Brewer, D.T., Heales, D.S., Eayrs, S.J., Taylor, B.R., Day, G., Sen, S., Wakeford, J., Milton, D.A., Stobutzki, I.C., Fry, G.C., van der Velde, T.D., Jones, P.N., Venables, W., Wang, Y-G., Dell, Q. Austin, M., Gregor, R., Pendrey, R., Hegerl, E., Carter, D., Nelson, C., Nichols, J., Gofton, T. 2004. Assessment and improvement of TEDs and BRDs in the NPF: a co-operative approach by fishers, scientists, fisheries technologists, economists and conservationists. Final Report on FRDC Project 2000/173. CSIRO, Cleveland.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Kyne, P.M. 2010. Chondrichthyans and the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery: Bycatch reduction, biology, conservation status and sustainability. PhD thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 361 pp.

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. First Edition. CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Hobart.

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Second Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.

Last, P.R., Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M. and Pogonoski, J.J. 2008. Himantura astra sp. nov., a new Whipray (Myliobatoidei: Dasyatidae) from northern Australia. Pp 303-314. In: P.R. Last, W.T. White and J.J. Pogonoski (eds), Descriptions of new Australian Chondrichthyans, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Paper No 022.

Last, P.R., Naylor, G.J.P. and Manjaji-Matsumoto, B.M. 2016. A revised classification of the family Dasyatidae (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes) based on new morphological and molecular insights. Zootaxa 4139(3): 345-368.

Pierce, S.J., Scott-Holland, T.B. and Bennett, M.B. 2011. Community composition of elasmobranch fishes utilizing intertidal sand flats in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Pacific Science 65: 235-247.

Stobutzki, I.C., Miller, M.J., Heales, D.S. and Brewer, D.T. 2002. Sustainability of elasmobranches caught as bycatch in a tropical prawn (shrimp) trawl fishery. Fishery Bulletin 100: 800-821.

Vaudo, J.J. and Heithaus, M.R. 2009. Spatiotemporal variability in a sandflat elasmobranch fauna in Shark Bay, Australia. Marine Biology 156: 2579-2590.

Citation: Rigby, C. & Pierce, S.J. 2016. Maculabatis toshi. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T161505A104194858. . Downloaded on 22 August 2018.
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