Gray Smoothhound Shark

Scientific Name: Mustelus californicus

Distribution: Northern California to Mexico.

Habitat: Gray smoothhound sharks can be found from the surf zone to 312 ft (95 m), but are most commonly found from the surface to 40 ft (12 m). These sharks are commonly seen over mud, sand, and seagrass ecotone (aka habitat edges).

Behavior: Gray smoothhound sharks are a schooling shark species which are commonly found in backbays and estuaries especially in spring and summer months. Shallow waters suit their temperature preference of ? 64°F (18°C) and females have been shown to prefer the warmest temperatures available. Gray smoothhound sharks also exhibit homing behavior and were found to be able to return to their home estuaries after being transported to another estuary (6.2 miles (10 km apart)). Gray smoothhounds eat invertebrates, octopus, and fishes but eat more clams as they get older.

Why it is important: While not a large commercial fishery in the US, gray smoothhounds are an important fishery in Baja California and the Gulf of California, and are sometimes recreationally caught in southern California. Gray smoothhound sharks are especially important to estuaries as a predator which can help regulate the estuarine food web.

Sources: FishBase, Love 2011, McCauley et al.2012, Freedman et al. 2015

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Mustelus californicus

Conservation Status (IUCN): Least concern

Lifespan: Females 9 years; Males 6 years

Age at Maturity: Females 2-3 years; Males 1-2 years

Maximum Weight: 8.4 lbs (3.8 kg) but likely greater

Speed: 3 miles per day (4.8 km/d)

Maximum Length: 5.3 ft (1.6 m)

Habitat: Nearshore, coastal embayments, and open water

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