Bathyraja panthera, a new species of skate (Rajidae: Arhynchobatinae) from the western Aleutian Islands, and resurrection of the subgenus Arctoraja Ishiyama

James W. Orr, Duane E. Stevenson, Gerald R. Hoff, Ingrid Spies, and John D. McEachran

We provide morphological and molecular evidence to recognize a new species of skate from the North Pacific, Bathyraja panthera. We also resurrect the skate subgenus Arctoraja Ishiyama, confirming its monophyly and the validity of the subgenus. Arctoraja was previously recognized as a distinct subgenus of Breviraja and later synonymized with Bathyraja (family Rajidae). Although the nominal species of Arctoraja have all been considered synonyms of Bathyraja parmifera by various authors, on the basis of morphometric, meristic, chondrological, and molecular data we recognize four species, including the new species. Species of Arctoraja are distributed across the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas from southern Japan to British Columbia. Bathyraja parmifera is abundant in the eastern Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and northern Gulf of Alaska; B. smirnovi is a western Pacific species found in the Sea of Okhotsk and Sea of Japan; B. simoterus is restricted to waters around the northern and eastern coasts of Hokkaido, Japan; and the new species B. panthera is restricted to the western Aleutian Islands. Bathyraja panthera is diagnosed by its color pattern of light yellow blotches with black spotting on a greenish brown background, high thorn and vertebral counts, chondrological characters of the neurocranium and clasper, and a unique nucleotide sequence within the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase gene. Furthermore, the species presently recognized as Bathyraja parmifera exhibits two haplotypes among specimens from Alaska, suggesting the possibility of a second, cryptic species.

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