A California shark with crushing teeth known to school with another species of shark

The Grey smoothhound (Mustelus californicus) is a shark belonging to the family Triakidae found in California waters. It is a slender, plain grey shark without any markings that primarily feeds on crustaceans. It is common among its range and of some importance to fisheries but is currently not evaluated.


Family: Triakidae – Houndsharks

Genus: Mustelus 

Species: californicus


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameGround Sharks

Family– Triakidae

Common NameHoundsharks




Average Size and Length: Mature males have been measured between 57-65 cm/1.8-2.1 feet. Mature females have been measured at 70 cm/2.3 feet. The maximum recorded for a male has been 116 cm/3.8 feet, and 124 cm/4 feet for a female.

Teeth and Jaw: The mouth is short, with teeth that are blunt, flat, or pavement-like, used for crushing. The labial furrows are of equal size.

Head: The head is short and narrow. It is broad internarial. The eyes are somewhat small and oval, with tiny spiracles behind them.

Tail: The caudal fin is asymmetrical. The caudal lobe is not well developed.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Grey smoothhound is found in the northeast Pacific from northern California to the Gulf of California (40°N – 23°N, 126°W – 109°W). They are found on the continental shelf inshore and offshore, in shallow muddy bays even, in warm, temperate to tropical waters all the way down to the bottom of the continental shelf. They possibly will go to depths of 656 feet, but typically stay between 0-151 feet. In the summer, they visit the north central California waters (more than likely where mating occurs). The rest of the year they reside further south. They are considered subtropical demersal.

Diet: They primarily feed on crabs, ghost shrimp and other items.  

Larger sharks like the Great Hammerhead shark and the Dusky shark will prey on the Grey smoothhound.

Aesthetic Identification: The Grey smoothhound is a uniform grey, unpatterned shark dorsally, and lighter ventrally. There have been albino sharks recorded. The dorsal fins are triangular. The first dorsal fin is closer to the pelvic fins than the pectoral fins.

Biology and Reproduction: They are viviparous, having 2-5 pups per litter. Gestation is between 10-11 months. Their lifespan is between 6-9 years.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: They have been seen schooling with the Leopard shark.

Grey Smoothhound Future and Conservation: They are not evaluated. They are common among their range and are important to fisheries in the south.

Grey Smoothhound Recorded Attacks on Humans: Not a threat to humans.