Small-spotted catshark

Small-spotted catshark ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

Catshark skin

Small-spotted catshark skin ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

Small-spotted catshark

Scientific name: Scyliorhinus canicula
Small-spotted catsharks used to be called lesser-spotted dogfish - which might be what you know them best as. It's the same shark, just a different name!

Species information

Statistics

Length: up to 75cm

Conservation status

Common and listed as of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

When to see

January to December

About

The small-spotted catshark is a small shark, so named due to the dark spots and blotches covering its skin. All sharks have very rough skin, covered in hard "dermal denticles" - which literally means "tiny skin teeth". If rubbed the wrong way, they are very coarse like sandpaper but it provides the shark with an effective chain-mail like protection. Catsharks are predators and feed on crabs, molluscs and other small fish. When threatened, they curl up into a donut shape - probably to look bigger and harder to eat! They are highly common around the UK and live close to the seabed in shallow waters down to 100m deep. They sometimes wash up dead on our beaches after storms, but you're most likely to come across one of their egg cases. Known as Mermaid's purses, shark (and ray and skate) egg cases are a good indicator of what species are breeding nearby. The Small-spotted Catshark has a small eggcase (5-7cm) with curly tendrils at each corner.

How to identify

The most common shark in UK seas. It is smaller and more spotty than the scarcer Nursehound (also known as Large Spotted Dogfish or Bull Huss). The small-spotted catshark has very rough, pale cream skin, large dark cat-like eyes and a small mouth. The eggs cases or 'mermaid's purses' are often found washed up onshore. They are 5-7cm long with curly tendrils coming from the corners.

In our area

Small-spotted catsharks are one of the most common species found around Europe and can be found pretty much around the whole UK and Irish coastline! They tend to live in relatively shallow waters, rarely venturing more than 50m deep. During the warmer months more females will be found closer to shore to lay their eggs.

Distribution

Found all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

This catshark has other common names such as 'Rough Hound', 'lesser spotted dogfish' and also 'rock salmon', under which name it sometimes appears on the menu in fish and chip shops. Dogfish and catshark are the same animal!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or check out our Action pages.