A long, pointed snout and a guitar-shaped body give the shovelnose guitarfish its common name. Compressed from belly to back, guitarfish bodies are attuned to life on the sand. Colors that range from olive to sandy brown on their upper body and white below help shovelnose guitarfish blend into their sandy seafloor habitat. They live on sandy seafloors in bays, seagrass beds and estuaries, and usually in less than 40 feet (12 m) of water.
A mouth located on the bottom of the disc is well placed for eating bottom dwelling prey, but breathing through it would destroy a guitarfish’s delicate gills. Instead, guitarfish pump water in through holes (spiracles) on top of their heads, over the gills, and out through gill openings on the bottom of the disc.
Guitarfish lie in ambush buried in the sand with only their eyes sticking out, waiting for an unwary crab or flatfish to wander by. Suddenly the sand erupts, and the guitarfish gulps down its meal. At night, they leave the sand to actively cruise the seafloor to feed on crabs, worms, clams and, perhaps, fishes.