Smoothhound - Mustelus mustelus


Illustration © Marc Dando

A large, fairly slender shark with a short head and snout, broad internarial, large close-set eyes, and an upper labial that furrows slightly longer than their lowers. The shark has unfringed dorsal fins, and a semifalcate ventral caudal lobe.

The shark is usually grey to grey-brown. Occasionally has dark spots.

At birth, the shark is approximately 1.3 ft [39 cm] in length. Males mature at a length of 2.3 to 2.4 ft [70 to74 cm], while females mature at about 2.6 ft [80 cm] in length. Males reach at least 3.6 ft [110 cm] long, and females reach at least 5.4 ft [164 cm].

Low-crowned teeth with weak cusps.

These sharks reside on continental shelves and upper slopes, usually between 16.4 to164 ft [5 to 50 m] deep, but are often found in intertidal zones to at least 1148.3 ft [350 m].

They prefer the temperate east Atlantic from the UK to the Mediterranean, Morocco, Canaries, and possibly the Azores, Madeira. They are also found in Angola to South Africa, including the Indian Ocean coast.


  • Prey – Primarily crustaceans, but also cephalopods and bony fishes.

  • Reproduction – Viviparous, yolk-sac placenta, with 4-15 pups per litter after a 10-11 month gestation.

They prefer swimming near the bottom, but sometimes can be found in mid-water.

At present, these sharks are considered common to abundant. They are very important in fisheries in European, Mediterranean and West African waters. They are taken in bottom trawls, fixed nets and line gear. They are used fresh, frozen, dry-salted and smoked for food; their liver is used for oil, and for fishmeal. They are also taken by sport fishers and can be kept in aquaria.