Smooth Dogfish Shark

Common Name: Smooth Dogfish Shark
Scientific Name: Mustelus canis

Smooth Dogfish Shark - Description

The smooth dogfish was originally described as Squalus canis by Mitchill in 1815 and later changed to the currently valid name of Mustelus canis. Mustelus is Latin in origin, and is translated as "weasel-like" while canis means "dog" in Latin.Mustelus canis insularis (Heemstra 1997) has been described as a subspecies of the smooth dogfish, occurring in parts of the Caribbean Sea. This subspecies usually occurs at greater depths (>655 feet (200 m)) than the Mustelus canis and prefers rocky bottom habitats.

Smooth Dogfish Shark - Habitat & Range

As one of the most abundant sharks on the east coast of the U.S., the smooth dogfish's range is primarily the western Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts to Florida (U.S.), and from southern Brazil to northern Argentina. It is also found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and Bermuda.

A common resident on continental shelves, bays, and other inshore waters, the smooth dogfish prefers shallow waters of less than 60 feet (18 m) in depth but may be found to depths of 655 feet (200 m). This species has also been found on occasion in freshwater although it is unlikely they can survive freshwater for extended periods of time.

Smooth Dogfish Shark - Biology

This small, slender shark has two large spineless dorsal fins with the first dorsal slightly larger than the second. The second dorsal fin is approximately twice as large as the anal fin and positioned slightly anterior to the anal fin. The lower lobe of the tail is rounded and much shorter than the upper lobe. The subspecies Mustelus canis insularis appears identical to Mustelus canis, however it differs in possessing a slightly higher dorsal fin and a longer caudal fin tip. The main distinction between these two species is the number of vertebrae, with the subspecies Mustelus canis insularis having more vertebrae than Mustelus canis. Maximum total length for the smooth dogfish has been documented as 59 inches total length(150 cm) with a maximum weight of (27 pounds) 12.2 kg. Smooth dogfish reach maximum size at seven to eight years of age.

Smooth Dogfish Shark - Food & Reproduction


As a scavenger and opportunistic predator, the nocturnal smooth dogfish feeds primarily on large crustaceans, including lobsters, shrimp, and crabs, as well as small fish and mollusks. The flat, blunt teeth of the dogfish are used to crush and grind these prey items which have tough outer body coverings.


Mating occurs throughout most of the smooth dogfish's range from May through July. Female smooth dogfish are capable to storing live sperm throughout the year, although it is unknown if this sperm can be utilized for fertilizing eggs. The smooth dogfish is a viviparous species with a yolk-sac placenta and a placental connection between the mother and embryo. Following a gestation period of approximately 10-11 months.