A fish washed-up on a beach by holidaymakers following stormy weather has been identified as a member of the shark family.

Visitor Karen Smith, 43, came across the creature while on a walk along Chesil Beach.

"We wondered what it was when we were walking along looking at the sea, it looked like it had not been there long" said Ms Smith, who was on holiday with her partner from Leicestershire.

"I guessed it was a shark but I was not sure what species. It was quite shocking to see"

An expert from the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) says it appears to be a nursehound shark, although it could be another variety due to similarities in appearance.

“Small-spotted catshark and younger/smaller nursehounds can look quite similar, but nursehounds grow much larger,” said Marc Kativu-Smith, coastal centres manager at the DWT.

“Nursehounds also tend to be more stocky at the front and have larger spots all over the body like in this picture.

“The best way to clearly identify them is from their nasal furrows but you cannot see those in the picture. The nasal furrows of the small-spotted catshark reach the mouth, but in the nursehounds they don’t.”

Mr Kativu-Smith says the small-spotted catshark is also known as the lesser spotted dogfish while the nursehound is known as the greater spotted dogfish, which leads to people referring to them both as dogfish.

Ms Smith, 43, says the one she found was around two and a half feet to three feet in length.

She was on holiday at the time showing her partner where she used to live.

Ms Smith said she had never come across a shark before when she was in Dorset, certainly not a nursehound.

Nursehounds are listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, but are ‘abundant’ in the seas off the Dorset coast.

Mr Kativu-Smith added: “This small shark is a resident all year round in our Dorset waters and we often find their egg cases washed up on the shore.

“They are a beautiful little shark and completely harmless, often hunting at night feeding on cephalopods, crabs and smaller fish.”