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

Dab (Limanda limanda)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



The dab is a small and very common flatfish, similar in general shape to the plaice Pleuronectes platessa, and flounder Platichthys flesus. Both eyes are on the right side of the body. The basic colour is brown with darker blotches and small speckles. Some fish may have a few orange spots but these are not as well developed as they are in the plaice, Pleuronectes platessa. The most characteristic feature is the lateral line, which is strongly arched. Most dab reach only 25 cm long but individuals up to 42 cm have been found.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

The dab is one of Britain's commonest flatfish, occurring all round Britain and Ireland and is particularly abundant in the North Sea.

Global distribution



Dab live in sandy areas from the shore down to 150 m but are most common between 20-40 m. The young live close inshore, usually in less than 1 m of water and the adults migrate inshore from deeper water in the warmer summer months.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Very distinct curve in the lateral line, which is strongly arched into a semi-circular curve over the pectoral fin.
  • No bony tubercles anywhere on the skin (plaice has a row of four to seven bony knobs running between the eyes to the gill opening).
  • The skin is rough on upper side (plaice and flounder feel smooth).
  • The pectoral fin is sometimes orange.

Additional information

Spawning depends on water temperature and therefore on latitude but is in spring and early summer around Britain. Dab will eat almost any bottom-living animal they catch. This includes brittlestars, small sea urchins, fish, worms, crustaceans and molluscs. The dab has a characteristic method of feeding (which it shares with the lemon sole). The fish raises its head and front part of the body up over a suitable site and waits for a prey to emerge. It then strikes rapidly down and bites it. In spite of their small size, they are a popular food fish with a good flavour and are moderately important commercially. They are caught in trawls and seine nets.

Listed by

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Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. 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.]


This review can be cited as:

Ruiz, A. 2008. Limanda limanda Dab. 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 24-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008