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Keywords:

  • Bathyraja;
  • biodiversity;
  • migrations;
  • south-west Atlantic Ocean

The eastern Patagonian Shelf and continental slope of the south-west Atlantic Ocean support a high biodiversity and abundance of skates. In this study, meso-scale differences in the assemblages, spatial and seasonal distributions of skates are revealed among six habitat zones of the eastern Patagonian Shelf characterized by distinctive oceanographic conditions. Most skates belonged to temperate fauna, and their abundance was much greater in habitats occupied by temperate waters (north-western outer shelf) or mixed waters (northern slope) than in habitats occupied by sub-Antarctic waters (SASW) (south-eastern outer shelf and southern slope). Sub-Antarctic skates were not abundant on the shelf even in habitats occupied by SASW, occurring mainly in deep areas of the lower continental slope. The majority of temperate skates migrated seasonally, shifting northward in winter and spreading southward with warming waters in summer. Most temperate species had two peaks in female maturity (mainly spring and autumn) and spawned in the same habitats where they fed. It is hypothesized that the high biodiversity and abundance of skates on the Patagonian Shelf and Slope are due to the practical absence of their natural competitors, flatfishes, which occupy similar eco-niches elsewhere.