Dab (Limanda limanda)

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



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

- none -


  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.]


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. IBIS Project Data. Occurrence dataset: https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  3. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  4. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7axhcw accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  5. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/kd1utk accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  6. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01.

  7. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  8. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iou2ld accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  9. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  10. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  11. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-12

  12. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/dax3tf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  13. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02


This review can be cited as:

Ruiz, A. 2008. Limanda limanda Dab. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 12-06-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2174

Last Updated: 17/04/2008