The nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris) is a species of catshark in the Scyliorhinidae family, and is also commonly referred to as the large-spotted dogfish. Carl Linnaeus gave the nurshound its current scientific name in 1758, with stellaris being Latin for “starry” in regards to the nursehound’s dorsal side pattern. In 1973, Stewart Springer designated this species to the Scyliorhinus genus.
The nursehound is nocturnal, and are usually in the NE Atlantic Ocean, found amongst rocks and algae in deeper waters (20-60 m/66-197 ft). During the day, they hide in caves and small holes, resting… and waiting for nightfall so they can feed on fish, small sharks, crustaceans and cephalopods. They share their range with a relative, the small-spotted catshark (S. canicula); nursehounds have larger spots than the small-spotted catshark.
Nursehounds can get up to 1.6 m (5.2 ft) in length. Their eyes are oval in shape, with a thick fold of skin on the lower rim; they lack a nictitating membrane. The nursehound has small black dots covering the top of its body, with brown spots of varying shapes (but usually larger than the black dots); they are grey-brown in skin colour underneath their busy pattern. Their pattern varies between individuals as well as age, as there may be white spots present, or the shark could be an overall brown colour. Ventrally, they are always a creamy white.
Like other catsharks, nursehounds are oviparous, and females lay eggs in pairs from March to October. Known breeding grounds include the River Fal estuary and Wembury Bay in England, as well as a few coastal sites in the Italian Peninsula (e.g. Santa Croce Bank in the Gulf of Naples). Shark Trust has a handy-dandy ID guide for their eggcases in those areas that can be accessed here. Adult nursehounds migrate to shallower water in the spring/early summer, and mate only at night. In the North Sea and Atlantic, these eggs take 10-12 months to hatch while those in the Mediterranean take about 7 months to hatch; all eggs can be found in seaweed.
These sharks are eaten in many European areas, marketed as “flake,” “catfish,” “rock eel,” and “rock salmon.” #Finfact: Its skin was used as an abrasive, termed “rubskin,” to polish wood and alabaster as well as raise hairs of beaver hats. The liver was also used for its oil, and its body was used as bait for crab traps. Their meat is sold fresh, dried, salted, and smoked. You can possibly see these sharks in aquariums, too.
Nursehounds are caught through bottom trawls, gillnets, bottom longlines, handlines and fixed bottom nets. However, fishery impact is difficult to assess as there isn’t much data for it. They are susceptible to overfishing due to their large size and fragmented range. It’s because of this that the IUCN has assessed them as Near Threatened (NT).
ever heard of this shark?
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