• Elasmobranchii;
  • biomechanics;
  • vertebrate limbs;
  • morphology;
  • mosaic evolution

Pelvic fin walking in skates is common. However, the structure and function of pelvic fins have not been analysed. Pelvic fins of skates of the genus Psammobatis and Rioraja agassizi are externally divided into an anterior leg-like lobe and a posterior fin-like lobe. Internally, the anterior lobes are supported by a compound radial, a proximal radial and distal radials that resemble a thigh, a calf and a foot, respectively, and three associated radials arising from the pelvic girdle. A highly developed radial condyle on the pelvic girdle enables broad ‘limb’ movements. The muscular arrangement of the anterior lobes is formed by protractor, retractor, flexor and extensor muscles, clearly departing from the generalized fin muscle arrangement of elasmobranchs. Walking is composed of propulsion and recovery phases. A backward movement of the compound radial in the horizontal plane characterizes the propulsive phase. The proximal radial connects vertically the compoundradial with the foot-like distal radials, which are anchored on the bottom. During the recovery phase, the foot-like structure is lifted off the bottom and the entire limb-like anterior lobe is moved forwards for starting a new cycle. Walking in skates resembles the ancestral tetrapod sprawling locomotion seen in many salamanders and lizards. Pelvic fin anatomy and walking behaviour in skates and hemiscylliid sharksare compared. Ecological and evolutionary implications of walking locomotion in skates are also discussed. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 77, 35–41.