- In freshwater lakes and rivers, "Dogfish" refers to a member of the Bowfin family.
Dogfish is a name applied to a number of small sharks found in the northeast Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean, especially to those in the three families Scyliorhinidae, Dalatiidae and Squalidae. Although often used in reference to Scyliorhinus canicula, the name is applied only loosely and does not usually signify a close taxonomic relationship.
Anatomy and morphology
The spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias
, is the most common shark in the western Atlantic. It is a small, slender shark with a flattened head and a snout that tapers to a blunt tip. It averages 2 1/2 to 3 ft in length with the largest growing to 4 ft or more. It hunts both alone and in groups with other dogfish. It eats small fish, squid
, and crustaceans
, and has extremely strong jaws for crushing shells, with low, flat, grinding teeth like the smooth dogfish, but also possessing an extra set of small, very sharp teeth. Records show that they can live from 25 to 30 years. More common is the lesser-spotted dogfish, with the nursehound
(greater spotted-dogfish) less abundant.
Interaction with humans
Dogfish are considered a nuisance by fishermen because they will latch on to almost anything put in the water, including human hands. Fishermen used to kill them when caught which, along with pollution, has contributed to a sharp decline in population in Puget Sound
. It is now illegal to kill or mutilate them when caught even though they were once considered a delicacy by Europeans, their flesh being sold as "rock salmon
Care must be taken when handling dogfish due to the two venomous spines at the back of both dorsal fins. The venom is not likely to cause major damage, but the wound can take months to heal. Their skin is also extremely abrasive, and thus gloves are usually worn when handling live dogfish .