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How to sex an elasmobranch


Sharks, rays and skates are easily sexed by simply observing the presence or lack of claspers; the males' reproductive organ. The female elasmobranch has a vent and no claspers. The male elasmobranch has 2 claspers that are located on either side of the vent. They look like short digits on immature males, while on a mature male the claspers will be long and in the shape of a finger.

Most of the time, if you simply watch a specimen that is actively swimming, you should have the opportunity to see the bottom of the animal and determine it's sex. However, they do not always cooperate. For small specimens, you can coax them into a transparent specimen tank or Tupperware. Once you have the animal secure and positive it cannot jump out, you may lift the tank or Tupperware to a position where you can see the ventral side of the animal. For larger specimens, you may need to physically restrain it, flip it over and look at the ventral area to see if there are claspers. However, this process of catching and restraining can cause unnecessary stress and perhaps injure the animal. Patience will always show you the sex of an elasmobranch. Therefore, with large animals we strongly recommend that you wait for the animal to swim and then observe it's sex.

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