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Fish #26 Nursehound Scyliorhinus stellaris ~ Paulette Strong
Watercolour 21 x 29 cm
Name - Scyliorhinus stellaris - a type of catshark
Common Name - Nursehound
This name is thought to have come from fishermen stories as they believed the nurse fish looked after the younger members of its family. Other names associated with this fish are Bull Huss, Greater spotted dogfish, Greater spotted Catshark, Flake and Rigg. In France it is known as the Grande Roussette.
Range and habitat
The range is from south Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and the north west of Africa. The main areas around the British Isles are along the English and Bristol Channels down to the Cornwall Coast. Few areas now in the North Sea. Known to breed in the River Fal in Cornwall and Wembury Bay, South Devon. It is generally found among rocks and algae at a depth of 20-60 m. Nursehounds have nocturnal habits and generally hide inside small holes during the day, often associating with other members of its species.
As its latin name stellaris (meaning starry) suggests it is covered in little brown and black starry spots from head to tail. Has cusped and erect front teeth 44-56 in the upper jaw an 38-46 in the lower jaw but less formidable than other sharks. It does have another defence where it throws its body around the arm which holds it and grates the body of the enemy with its rugged spines using its skin like a rasp. The rough skin (called "rubskin") was once used to polish wood as a sandpaper.
Growing up to 1.6 m long. With a life span of 19 years. Oviparous, with a single egg per oviduct. Embryos feed solely on yolk. Size at hatching about 16 cm. and take about 10 - 12 months to hatch. Like all sharks the Nursehound is slow to mature and only start laying between 9 and 41 embryos a year from around 4 years of age. Feeds on crustaceans, cephalopods and bony fish, juveniles eating more crustaceans than adults.
The Nursehound is near threatened due to overfishing, often by gill nets, bottom set long lines and bottom trawls. Habitat degradation is also a significant factor. As a food it is known as rock salmon, rock eel and huss. This species is protected in six marine reserves around the Balearic Islands, but no other species-specific conservation measures are in place throughout its range.
Fish #26 Nursehound Scyliorhinus stellaris ~ Mike Butterworth
Oil 80 x 100 cm
Sleek & silent over the rocks
I watch the great fish glide
Searching the nooks and crevices
Weaving from side to side
Through the ancient forest of kelp
Wending his way unknown
With North Sea waters running deep
The Nursehound swims alone
Could he be looking for a mate?
Or for a lunchtime snack
Smoothly picking his way ahead
And never looking back
Take-care you wondrous mini-shark
There's danger all about
Beware the hooks of wily men
Who wish to pull you out
And show you off to all their friends
Then take you home for tea
How better it would be for us all
To leave you in the sea!
It's not often that a fish has so many common names: Nursehound, Bull Huss, Greater Spotted Dog Fish, Rock Salmon, Flake, Grande Roussette. Scyliorhinus stellaris is not a bony fish; it is in fact a Shark. Strangely enough this dog fish is actually a Cat Shark from the Genus Scyliorhinidae (Cat Sharks).
Native of the North Atlantic it is found all around the British Isles and Scandinavia, to Morocco and the Mediterranean. It is found at depths of 2m to 125m on the continental shelf searching the rocky, rough or algae-covered seabed for molluscs, crustaceans, and bottom-living invertebrates. Living around 20 years, they can grow to a length of 1.7 meters (5.5ft). Like other catsharks, the Nursehound is oviparous in reproduction. Females deposit a large, single, thick-walled egg case, from March to October, securing them to bunches of seaweed. The eggs take 7-12 months to hatch. The Nursehound is a large, fairly stocky, cat shark with large and small black spots and sometimes white spots covering the dorsal surface. The saddle markings are obsolete, with small anterior nasal flaps that do not reach the mouth, no nasoral grooves, labial furrows on lower jaw only, and second dorsal fin much smaller than first. (www.fishbase.org). It was once highly valued for its rough skin (called 'rubskin'), which was used as an abrasive.
Nursehounds have nocturnal habits and generally hide inside small holes during the day, occasionally associating with other members of its species and the smaller Scyliorhinus caniculus. The common name 'Nursehound' came from an old belief by English fishermen that this shark attends to its smaller relatives, (probably the Scyliorhinus canicula - The Small Spotted Cat Shark), while the name "huss" may have come from a distortion of the word 'nurse' over time. On the ICUN Red List of threatened species, the Nursehound is classified as 'Near Threatened' as its population in the Mediterranean Sea seems to have declined substantially from over fishing.
Fish #26 Nursehound Scyliorhinus stellaris ~ Jane Heighton
Deep in the dark North Sea you swim,
Gregarious and free.....
When we leave you to be.....
The nurse of fishermen folklore,
Predated by man,
But you can become five feet long,
When we leave you to be.....
I wish for you to flourish,
Not be diminished by greed.
I swim in starry seas with you,
Deep in the North sea,
In my dreams......
We leave you to be.....
At what cost we overfish these starry seas,
At what cost we overfish, to you and me,
At what cost......
Deep in the dark North sea you swim,
gregarious and free......
When we leave you to be......
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