The Common Smooth Hound Shark (Mustelus mustelus) is a type of hound shark from the family of Triakidae. It is commonly found roaming in the eastern Atlantic sea from the British Isles all the way to the coasts of South Africa.
Smooth Hound Shark – Description
The Common Smooth Hound Shark lives in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea, Madeira and the Canary Islands at depths between 5m and 625m (although they tend to stay at depths between 5m – 50m). Although they can grow up to 200cm, their usual mature size is 150cm. They usually grow to 100cm – 120cm with a birthing length of around 35cm.
It is grey to brown on the back and white on the belly. It can be confused with the starry, smooth hound that has white spots on their backs.
Another shark it is often misjudged as is the Tope Shark, although the Common Smooth Hound Shark has a larger second dorsal fin. Due to the similar comparison between the Common Smooth Hound Sharks and other sharks, misidentification has occurred for a long time.
The Common Smooth Hound Shark has two dorsal fins, an anal fin, a pair of pectoral and pelvic fins, and a heterocercal tail. All of these fins help to stabilise the shark, and in males the pelvic fins are modified to form claspers.
Like other types of Hounds, the Common Smooth Hound Shark will accumulate in large numbers, much like that of a pack of wild dogs. That is also why they are called ‘hounds’.
Reproduction of common Smooth Hound Shark is viviparous. Females give birth to live baby sharks after a gestation period of ten to eleven months. Their litter size can range from as little as four to as many as seventeen. The young are approximately 35cm long at birth. They usually grow between 100cm and 120cm, but females can reach 164cm in length.
Geographical Location & Habitat
The Common Smooth Hound Shark lives in shallow waters and can be found in waters over a hundred meters deep, but can also come close to fisherman. It is a shallow water shark species that prefers sandy pebbles and slightly broken soil and tends to stay away from heavy rocky soil.
The Common Smooth Hound Shark was originally a species that occurs mainly in the southwest of the British Isles and has increased its range. So, it is now regularly caught in the east of England with an increase occurrence along the coasts of Cumbria, Yorkshire and north-east England.
Their expanded range has been aided by the fact that smooth hound sharks are not eaten in Britain and are not targeted by British ships, although they have been sold under the names Sweet William, Rock Salmon or Flake in the past in fish and chip shops.
The Common Smooth Hound Shark is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in European waters by the International Union for Nature Conservation. A major reason for the increase in Smooth Hound Sharks, which should not be overlooked, is that they are caught and released by fisherman and anglers.
They are caught off the Mediterranean coast of Africa for human consumption, and it is commercial fishing pressure in the area that has reduced their numbers in many parts of the world. The anglers like to catch them, take some quick photos and then bring them back to the sea.
Smooth Hound Shark – Diet
Despite being a species of shark and resembling a predatory Smooth Hound Shark, it does not feed primarily on hunted fish. Instead, they roam the sea floor in search of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, hermit crabs and shrimp.
They fish occasionally when the opportunity arises, but fish are not a significant portion of their diet. The eating habits of Hound Sharks can best be understood by looking at their teeth. Instead of the typical sharp teeth like other sharks, the Smooth Hound Shark has blunt yet powerful plates that are perfectly suited to consuming the crustaceans that make up the bulk of their diet. This lack of sharp teeth is the reason for the alternative name, Gummy Shark.