It’s Shark Week! And that means sharks galore. If you’re terrified, don’t be. First off, sharks are just fish. Second, you’re safe from every single “monster” you’ll see this week. They’re all on your TV or computer screen and have no intention of bursting into your living room.
The real terror would be not having access to the Discovery Channel, which creates and hosts Shark Week. How else would you get to know fascinating sharks like the Spiny Dogfish, aka The Dog Shark? Yep, that’s a thing. Here’s a little intro to this critter who, despite its name, doesn’t have a lot in common with your pooch:
The Spiny Dogfish is also called the Spurdog, Mud Shark, or Piked Dogfish. Its Latin name is Squalus acanthias and it belongs to the Squalidae (dogfish) family of sharks, which are related to Pygmy and Sleeper sharks.
There are a few sharks whose common name is “Dogfish,” but what makes the Spiny Dogfish different are its two dorsal spines. Plus, it doesn’t have an anal fin. The “dog” part of its name probably comes its aggressive reputation and habit of feeding in packs of up to hundreds or thousands of sharks at a time. Physically, the Spiny Dogfish doesn’t resemble a pup much, unless you count its snout.
Male Spiny Dogfish can grow up to nearly three and a half feet long, while female members of the species can grow to a little more than five feet long. That’s small for sharks. The species’ coloration is dark brown-gray on top with white on their tummies. Typically, they have white spots on their sides, but every Spiny Dogfish is unique. Spiny Dogfish’s skin is covered in tiny tooth-like scales known as denticles. (After the denticles are removed, the skin can be cured and used as leather.)
Though Spiny Dogfish are bottom-dwellers, they can live 3,000 feet deep. That explains their wide-ranging diet: squid, fish, crab, shrimp, and more. They’ll even eat other sharks. Their powerful jaws and teeth make it easy for them to crunch through a lot. These guys also travel long distances. One Spiny Dogfish tagged in Washington state was eventually found in Japan. That means that little dude traveled 5,000 miles!
Probably the most surprisingly fact about Spiny Dogfish is that they can live up to be 100 years old. Nope, those aren’t dog years. Those are human years. That’s a very long time to be swimming back and forth in the ocean.
Now to address your lingering question: Is the Spiny Dogfish dangerous? No, not in a Jaws kind of way. A Spiny Dogfish won’t come after you, but you shouldn’t pick one up, either. Its spines can wound you pretty badly. In the wild, the Spiny Dogfish will curl up into a bow and use its spines to strike predators.
And that’s probably all you want to know about the Spiny Dogfish for now. Welcome to the pack, Dog Shark! Keep an eye for them on Shark Week!