Gray Smoothhound Shark
Mustelus californicus

Physical Description

  • Small, slender shark
  • Pointed snout, large oval eyes
  • Asymmetrical tail fin (bigger on top than on bottom)
  • Brownish gray on top, lighter bellies
  • Noticeable spiracle (breathing hole) behind each eye
  • Adult males grow to about 48 inches, females have been measured at 64 inches long


  • Found from northern California to Baja California, Mexico
  • Found in Gulf of California


  • Live in coastal waters, like bays and rocky shores
  • Depths of 6-150 feet


  • Adult females become reproductively mature at 29 inches, males at 24 inches
  • Spawning most likely takes place in waters off of northern California
  • Gestation takes 10-11 months and females give birth to live young
  • Litters are between 2-5 pups, with an average length of 8-12 inches


  • Eat ghost shrimp, innkeeper worms, small fish like midshipmen and herring, shore crabs, and rock crabs
  • They have blunt teeth to help them bite through their hard, shelled prey


  • Smoothhound sharks’ predators are larger sharks, including the sevengill shark

Interesting Facts

  • Gray smoothhound sharks often school with leopard sharks.
  • This small shark is considered harmless to humans.

Sources: Florida Museum; Espinoza et al. 2011

Photo: Andy Murch

Come see a smoothhound shark in person at Birch Aquarium’s Shark Shores or at Living Coast Discovery Center!

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