Nurse hound (Scyliorhinus stellaris)

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



The nurse hound Scyliorhinus stellaris is a large catshark that can reach up to 1.6 m in length. It is slender but fairly stocky in build. It has two dorsal fins, located towards the rear half of the body. It has an anal fin unlike members of the dogfish family. Scyliorhinus stellaris is easily recognised by the large and small black spots (and sometimes white spots) on its creamy brown back. The underside is white.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found throughout Britain and Ireland from the Shetland Isles down to the coasts of Cornwall.

Global distribution



The nurse hound occurs both inshore and offshore continental shelves, usually over rough and rocky or coralline grounds and seaweed beds, down to depths of up to 100 m. It can usually be found on or just above the seafloor.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Two dorsal fins without spines; anal fin is present.
  • The first dorsal fin is larger and originates over or behind the pelvic fins.
  • Five gill slits, the last of which is over the pectoral fin base.
  • Back is covered in different sized black spots.
  • Only small nasal flaps that do not reach the mouth.
  • No nasal grooves.

Additional information

Unlike Scyliorhinus canicula it has only small anterior nasal flaps that do not reach the mouth.

Listed by


  1. Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsies, 125, 251-655

  2. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  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. 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.


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  3. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  4. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  5. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  6. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  7. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  8. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  9. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-06-23

  10. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  11. Scottish Shark Tagging Programme, 2018. Capture Mark Recapture Data for Scottish Elasmobranchs: 2009-2018. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Scyliorhinus stellaris Nurse hound. 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 23-06-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 24/06/2008