information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



This small shark has a slender shark-shaped body with a blunt head, rounded snout and small dorsal fin. The nostrils are located on the underside of the snout and are connected to the mouth by a curved groove. There are five pairs gill slits, the last two of which overlap the pectoral fins. The upper side is greyish-brown with darker spots and the underside is a lighter greyish-white colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common on all British and Irish coasts.

Global distribution



Scyliorhinus canicula lives particularly in the shallow sublittoral on muddy and sandy substrata to a depth of 100 m. It may also be found in rocky areas.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Slender shark shaped body, up to 75 cm long.
  • Blunt head with a rounded snout.
  • Small dorsal fin.
  • 5 pairs of gill slits.
  • Upper side greyish brown with dark spots.
  • Underside light greyish-white colour.

Additional information

Also known as dog fish, rough hound and rock salmon. Eggs are known as 'mermaid's purses'. Numbers fluctuate annually possibly due to fishing activity.

Listed by

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  2. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.


This review can be cited as:

Pizzolla, P.F 2008. Scyliorhinus canicula Small-spotted catshark. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 16-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 29/04/2008