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

Nurse hound (Scyliorhinus stellaris)

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



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

Further information sources

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

  5. 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:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Scyliorhinus stellaris Nurse hound. 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 14-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 24/06/2008