The Rays are much like the skates, but are shorter or blunter in the snout, and, in addition to certain dangerous thorn-like teeth or claws which project from the tail, have similar weapons of defence and offence along the ridge of the backbone and sometimes adorning their heads. First comes The Thornback Ray—so called from these said adornments. Raia clavata is the scientific name. Fishermen usually drop the ' ray,' and merely call them ' thorn backs,' which answers every purpose. These fish are found on almost every part of our coast, and are particularly abundant round the north-western islands of Scotland. They are deemed fairly good eating if not too large. In Scotland they are often salted, but some fishermen merely dry them.
The Homelyn (Raia Maculata), which is also called spotted ray, rough ray, and sandy ray, has much the same habits as the thornback, and is caught with the same baits. It is spotted all over its back, has a triple row of tiger's claws on its tail, a single row up its backbone, and smaller projections of the same kind scattered about its head, nose, and round the fore edges of its fins. Other varieties of this species are the Painted Ray (Raia microcellata), the Starry Ray (Raia radiata), the Cuckoo Ray or Sandy Ray (Raia circularis).
There are three fish which in general form much resemble the rays. The first of these is the Sting Ray (Trygon pastinaca), which is worthless as food. The tiger claws are wanting in this family. The tail is something in the nature of a whiplash, but from it projects a poisonous spine which can inflict a fearful wound. The Whip Ray (Mylobatis aquila) is a somewhat similar fish, with a much larger tail than the trygon, and has on its back very curious markings somewhat resembling a backbone and ribs. It also possesses an extremely poisonous spine near the base of the tail, of which all honest fishermen should beware. Lastly, there is the Ox Ray (Cephaloptera giornae), which has a long whiplash of a tail, and a body shaped very much like a bat with wings extended. Near the base of the tail is a terrible-looking spine with serrated edges. It is an exceedingly rare fish in British waters, but better known in the Mediterranean, where, I believe, it grows to an enormous size.