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Spiny dogfish biologySaid to be the most abundant living shark, the spiny dogfish is a slow, inactive swimmer and forms massive feeding aggregations of thousands of individuals.
With estimates of between 20 and 75 years, the spiny dogfish is thought to be a very long-lived fish that matures late and reproduces slowly, with gestation lasting two years – the longest of any vertebrate (1) (2) (3). Spiny dogfish threatsThe spiny dogfish is considered to be the most abundant living shark, yet two particular subpopulations in the northwest and northeast Atlantic Ocean are considered to be at risk due to massive fishing pressure. Spiny dogfish conservationThese sharks are especially vulnerable to over-fishing as they are slow to mature, have a very long gestation period, and produce very few young. The smooth dogfish was originally described as Squalus canis by Mitchill in 1815 and later changed to the currently valid name of Mustelus canis (Mitchill 1815). Mustelus canis insularis (Heemstra 1997) has been described as a subspecies of the smooth dogfish, occurring in parts of the Caribbean Sea.
The common names for Mustelus canis include smooth dogfish, Atlantic smooth dogfish, dogfish, dusky smooth-hound, grayfish, nurse shark, smooth dog, smoothhound, and smooth hound in the English language.
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).
The range of the smooth dogfish overlaps that of the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), however it is easy to distinguish the two species.
Dentition of the smooth dogfish differs greatly from other sharks which have sharp blade-like teeth. Along the body of the smooth dogfish, denticles are irregularly spaced and lance-shaped with two to six longitudinal ridges extending the entire length of the denticle.


In recent years, there has been increased interest in the commercial fishery for smooth dogfish. In other locations throughout its range, the smooth dogfish is fished with bottom and floating longlines and trawls.
The smooth dogfish poses no threat to humans due to its small size and small blunt, pavement-like teeth. This dogfish is a small target in the New England and Mid-Atlantic gillnet fisheries, however it is probably considered by-catch in most fisheries. The spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) is a small, slim fish with a narrow, pointed snout and distinctive white spots (4). An ovoviviparous species, spiny dogfish develop in eggs within the female, and gain nourishment from their yolk sacs, After four to six months, these eggs are shed, but the embryos continue to develop inside the female, still living off the yolk sac attached to their abdomens.
The spiny dogfish has one spine in front of each of the two dorsal fins while the smooth dogfish lacks dorsal spines. These marking fade quickly, usually by the time the smooth dogfish has grown to two feet in length. The small teeth of the smooth dogfish are flat and blunt, similar in both the upper and lower jaws. The flat, blunt teeth of the dogfish are used to crush and grind these prey items which have tough outer body coverings. 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.


Prior to the 1990s, annual landings of this dogfish were less than 80,000 pounds (36.29 tonnes).
The American National Marine Fisheries Services closed American waters to dogfish fishing in July 2003 on evidence that the population was on the edge of collapse (2). Synonyms used in past scientific literature that also refer to the smooth dogfish include Allomycter dissutus Guitart 1972.
The smooth dogfish migrates seasonally, moving north in the spring and south in the autumn.
Small fish that are preyed upon by the smooth dogfish include menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) and tautog (Tautoga onitis). The smooth dogfish is a viviparous species with a yolk-sac placenta and a placental connection between the mother and embryo. WWF have created a suggested recovery plan that aims to reduce exploitation to very low rates to allow recovery, and to reduce by-catch by avoiding areas with spiny dogfish.
As mentioned above, populations of smooth dogfish are geographically isolated from each other.



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