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Biological Profiles


Order: Squaliformes
Family: Squalidae
Genus: Cirrhigaleus
Species: asper

Roughskin dogfish


Merrett described the roughskin dogfish as Squalus asper in 1973. Shortly afterwards, this name was changed to the currently valid Cirrhigaleus asper (Merrett 1973). The genus name Cirrhigaleus is derived from the Latin "cirrus" which means curl fringe and the Greek "galeo" meaning a shark. The species name asper is derived from Latin, meaning rough. Due to its recent description, there are no known synonyms referring to the roughskin dogfish in previous scientific literature.

Common Names

English language common names include roughskin dogfish, roughskin dogshark, roughskin spiny dogfish, and roughskin spurdog. Common names in other languages are aiguillat peau rugueuse (French), galludo raspa (Spanish), quelme rugoso (Portuguese), ruwe doornhaai (Dutch), and ruwevel-penhaai (Afrikaans).

Geographical Distribution

The roughskin dogfish has been reported from the western Atlantic Ocean from waters off North Carolina to the Florida Keys (US) as well as the northern Gulf of Mexico. In the western Indian Ocean, it is found from southern Mozambique to South Africa and waters off Reunion, Comoros, and the Aldabra islands. In the central Pacific Ocean, it lives off the shores of the Hawaiian Islands.

World distribution map for the roughskin dogfish
World distribution map for the roughskin dogfish


This dogfish resides in marine waters over the upper continental and insular slopes. It is a deepwater species, found at depths from 700-1,970 feet (214-600 m). Information on the life history of the roughskin dogfish is lacking due to the recent description of this species.

Roughskin dogfish
© George Burgess
Roughskin dogfish

Distinctive Features
The roughskin dogfish has a stout body with a long and rounded snout. The eyes and spiracles are large. The two dorsal fins each have a spine. The first dorsal fin originates behind the free rear tips of the pectoral fins. The second dorsal fin is large, approaching the size of the first dorsal. The triangular pectoral fins are broad and have rounded tips. The caudal fin is short with broad lobes.

Upclose view of roughskin dogfish head including ventral view
© George Burgess
Roughskin dogfish head

Caudal fin of the roughskin dogfish
© George Burgess
Roughskin dogfish caudal fin

Other species that are similar in appearance to the roughskin dogfish include the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), Blainville's dogfish (S. blainvillei), and the Cuban dogfish (S. cubensis). The spiny dogfish can be distinguished by its small dermal denticles and second dorsal fin which is much smaller than the first dorsal. Also, it is often marked with white spots throughout the body.

Spiny dogfish: note the size of the second dorsal fin which is much smaller than the first dorsal fin.
courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service
spiny dogfish

Blainville's dogfish: note the position of the dorsal fin compared to that of the roughskin dogfish
courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service
Blainville's dogfish

The Blainville's dogfish and Cuban dogfish both have a first dorsal fin that is located more anterior than the roughskin dogfish, with the origin over the pectoral fin. These species also have smaller dermal denticles.

Coloration of the roughskin dogfish
© Jose Castro
Roughskin dogfish coloration

The body of the roughskin dogfish is dark gray to brown, fading to a lighter color below. The fins are edged with white. The body lacks spots or any other distinctive markings. Juvenile roughskin dogfish are brown in color.

Dentition of the roughskin dogfish consists of oblique teeth with smooth-edged cusps and distinct notches in the outer margins. Numbering 12-14 teeth on each side of the upper jaw and 11-12 teeth on each side of the lower jaw, the dentition of this species forms a practically continuous cutting edge.

Roughskin dogfish denticle
FAO Species Catalog, Vol. 4 Part 2 Sharks of the World

The roughskin dogfish gets its common name from the rough feeling skin it has. This rough texture is from the unusually large dermal denticles found on this species. The denticles on adult specimens are tripcuspidate with a distinct central ridge flanked by weaker ridges. Juveniles have leaf-shaped denticles characterized by a distinct central ridge.

Roughskin dogfish reach an average length of about 3 feet (0.9 m)
© George Burgess
Roughskin dogfish size

Size, Age, and Growth
The maximum reported size for the roughskin dogfish is 3.9 feet (120 cm) total length for a male specimen. The average size for this species is about 3 feet (90 cm). Males reach maturity at length of 2.8-3.0 feet (85-90 cm) and females mature at 2.9-3.6 feet (89-110 cm) in length.

Roughskin dogfish feed on bony fish and squid
© Charles Glatzer

Food Habits
This dogfish feeds on a variety of bony fishes and cephalopods including squid.

The mode of reproduction in the roughskin dogfish is ovoviviparity meaning the embryos are nourished by a yolk-sac within the mother's body until birth. At the end of the gestation period, 21-22 pups are born, each measuring 9.8-11.0 inches (25-28 cm) in length.

The blacktip shark is a potential predator of the roughskin dogfish
© David Snyder
blacktip shark

Larger sharks are potential predators of the roughskin dogfish.

Importance to Humans

There is no interest in fisheries for the roughskin dogfish. It is occasionally caught with hook and line as well as trawling gear used in deep water.

Dorsal spine of the roughskin dogfish
© George Burgess
Roughskin dogfish dorsal spine

Danger to Humans

This species of dogfish is considered harmless to humans. However, care should be taken when handling the roughskin dogfish due to the spines on the dorsal fins.


The roughskin dogfish is listed as "Data Deficient" with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The IUCN is a global union of states, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations in a partnership that assesses the conservation status of species.

Prepared by:

Cathleen Bester