Bowmouth Guitarfish (Sea Life by Schleich)

Review and images by JimoAi; edited by bmathison1972

“A shark!” a couple exclaimed as a bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma) swims past the aquarium viewing panel. It swished its shark like tail from side to side but has a flattened head of a ray, making it look like a hybrid of a shark and a ray. Me, a fish expert, sighed and laughed for the X amount of times someone has addressed this odd ray as a shark. These fish are actually in the order Rajiformes, despite resembling sharks, particularly, a miniature whale shark. But unlike the actual whale sharks, the bowmouth guitarfish have their gill slits on their underside rather than on their top, flattened teeth to crush unfortunate fish, crustaceans, bivalves and cephalopods, and a row of thorns on its head and back. In the aquarium, there are several of them in this tank and several others in a larger tank that also houses reef manta rays and a singular scalloped hammerhead. They are found near the sea bed in the tropical waters in the western Indo-Pacific in places such as the Red Sea, parts of Southeast Asia, and Australia’s Shark Bay. It’s hard to believe that these fish are rare in the wild due to it being a relatively common species in public aquaria, and this one is no exception. The bowmouth guitarfish is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN due to it being intentionally caught for its fins and meat, as well as bycatch. Fortunately, this species adapts well in large public aquariums and has even been successfully bred in some, this aquarium included, which sheds some hopeful light on this species’ survival.

About the figure: this bowmouth guitarfish is about 10.6 cm long when measured from the tip of the snout to the top of the caudal lobe. This figure is a male due to the presence of claspers sculpted, however, they are separated from the pelvic fins, ignoring the fact that claspers are a modified part of the pelvic fins. Male bowmouth guitarfish reach sexual maturity at least when they are 150 cm long and though their maximum size is unknown. The largest one found was a 300 cm long female and males get smaller than females. This puts this bowmouth guitarfish at least at the 1:14 to about 1:27 scale.

The figure is posed in a rather static pose, as if it is resting on the sea floor. I, for one, prefer neutral poses on my figures as opposed to really dynamic poses. For colouration, the figure is painted in a brownish color, which suggests this specimen is an adult, and it is decorated with some light gray spots thought the body from the head to both dorsal and pectoral fins all the way to the caudal fins. Schleich has really done their homework on this figure, with the trademark ‘W’ shape in it’s mouth, this giving the ray its name, and is painted a light pink colour. The thorns on his back are painted a dark gray colour and the spiracle openings are sculpted at the top behind the eyes. The correct number of gill slits on each side (5) are sculpted.

The eye could have had more work put into it. It looks like it’s either having puppy dog eyes, or it has had enough of what ever is going on. It’s just white with a black pupil and looks a little goofy to look at. Other companies have done theirs better. For example, CollectA has one with brown eyes and a black pupil. Here is the 2 figures compared with one another:

Despite the minor issues like the inaccurate claspers and goofy eyes, I think this ray is a welcome addition to anyone’s marine life collection. Unfortunately, like most unusual species by Schleich, this figure was retired only a few years after it was first released (but they do pop up on sites like eBay occasionally). Alternatively, other companies has made a few versions of this fish: Safari Ltd. has made a juvenile; Colorata and CollectA have both made adults of this species. I do hope that more companies make more unusual ray species like the giant guitarfish or the butterfly ray to give these overlooked cousins of the shark a chance at the spotlight.

Compared to 1:21 scale Matsuura Kanan, which puts this bowmouth guitarfish at the 218 cm range:

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