While many rays wave or flap their pectoral fins (their disc) to swim, fiddler rays swish their tail side to side.

Guitars and shovels

The southern fiddler ray belongs to a family of rays known as guitarfishes. They are given this name due to the guitar-like shape of their bodies, which form a small, oval disc followed by two lobes at the base of a thick tail. Guitarfish are closely related to shovelnose rays and both feature a translucent snout, but guitarfish are easily distinguished by a more rounded rather than pointed head.

The southern fiddler ray’s scientific name Trygonorrhina is Greek meaning ‘ray nose’ while fasciata comes from Latin, meaning ‘bandaged’, which describes the bold stripes that wrap over the ray’s body.

Patches, diamonds or stripes

There are three species of fiddler rays and all of them are only found in Australia! All fiddler rays inhabit the soft, sandy bottoms of coastal lagoons where they feed on shellfish, squid and other invertebrates. The magpie fiddler is covered in distinct black and white patches, while the southern and eastern fiddler are similar in appearance, with brown to grey colouring and intricate banded patterns. The only visual difference is found behind their eyes; the southern fiddler (found WA-VIC) has three stripes, while the eastern fiddler (found VIC to QLD) and has a diamond marking behind the eyes instead.

Mistaken identity

Fiddler rays are often mistakenly called ‘stingrays’, but they have no stinging barb in their tail and are harmless to people. They are also nicknamed ‘banjo sharks’, as they have a thick tail with dorsal fins and rough, bumpy skin, just like a shark. However they are considered rays, as their side fins merge completely into their body forming a disc and their gills are underneath, not on the sides!


Watch a fiddler ray cruise the shallows of AQWA’s Stingray Bay; it might even poke its head out of the water and check you out too!