ANGEL SHARK - 40 Amazing Facts

ANGEL SHARK – 40 Amazing Facts

Angel sharks include a group of shark species in the genus Squatina. There are 24 identified species under this genus. And, their distribution occurs all over the world both in temperate and tropical regions. Certainly, they are interesting sharks to learn about.

The family of these shark species is Squatinidae. Their common habitat is a sandy seabed and they are found at depths close to 150m.

Before now, the Angel sharks are abundant over large areas. However, recently there is an increase in fishing pressure resulting in a significant population decline of these sharks. As a result of this, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) listed most of these shark species as Critically Endangered.

This page contains amazing facts about the Angel sharks that will excite any shark enthusiast. But, before listing these facts, let us introduce this shark.

Angel Sharks Description

The Angel sharks very much resemble the rays as they have unusual flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins. However, their genus Squatina is the only one in the family Squatinidae and order Squatiniformes.

Most species of Angel sharks live in shallow tropical or temperate seas. And, the other few remaining species live in the deeper water of about 1300m (4300 ft.) in depth.

The majority species occur in a small restricted geographic range, Although, some still occur over a wider geographic area. This restriction might as well relate to the Squatina species behavior as they are ambush predators. And concurrently, they are bottom-dwellers to complete the picture.

With such characteristics, trans-ocean migration is an unlikely activity in these species. Though, there are reports of a large-scale coastal pattern of migration in Squatina squatina species as an example.

The 24 Identified Species of Angel Sharks

Here are the species of Angel shark:

s/nCommon NamesScientific Names
IUCN Redlist Status
Angel Shark
Saquatina squatina
Critically Endangered (CE)
Northeast Atlantic: southern Norway, Sweden and the Shetland Islands to Morocco and West Sahara, including the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea.
Pacific Angel Shark
Squatina californica
Near Threatened (NT)
Eastern Pacific: southeastern Alaska to the Gulf of California; Costa Rica to southern Chile.
Smothback Angel Shark
Squatina oculata
Critically Endangered (CE)
Eastern Atlantic: Mediterranean and Morocco to Angola.
Japanese Angel Shark
Squatina japonica
Vulnerable (VU)
Northwest Pacific: Japan, Yellow Sea, Korea, and northern China.
Australia Angel Shark
Squatina australis
Least Concern (LC)
Eastern Indian Ocean: southern Australia (including New South Wales).
Argentine Angel Shark
Squatina argentina
Endangered (EN)
Southwest Atlantic: southern Brazil to Argentina.
African Angel Shark
Squatina africana
Data Deficient (DD)
Western Indian Ocean: tropical and warm temperate waters from Tanzania to the eastern Cape coast of South Africa.
Chilean Angel Shark
Squatina armata
Data Deficient (DD)
Southeast Pacific: Chile.
Eastern Angel Shark
Squatina albipunctata
Vulnerable (VU)
Pacific: Australia. It occurs off eastern Australia between Cairns, Queensland and Lakes Entrance, Victoria.
Philippines Angel Shark
Squatina caillieti
Data Deficient (DD)
Western Pacific: Philippines.
Taiwan Angel Shark
Squatina formosa
Endangered (EN)
North Western Pacific: East coast of Taiwan and Ryuku Islands to SE Japan to the Izu Peninsula
Indonesian Angel Shark
Squatina legnota
Data Deficient (DD)
Indian Ocean: Indonesia Occurs off southern Indonesia. Palabuhanratu in West Java, Cilacap in Central Java, Kedonganan in Bali, and Tanjung Luar in Lombok.
Western Angel Shark
Squatina pseudocellata
Least Concern (LC)
Indian Ocean: Australia. Endemic to tropical and subtropical Western Australia between Port Hedland and Dorre Island.
Mexican Angel Shark
Squatina mexicana
Not Evaluated
Western Atlantic: Gulf of Mexico.
15.Squatina Punctata MariniSquatina punctataEndangeredSouthwest Atlantic: Southern Brazil, Uruguay, to Argentina
16.Ornate Angel SharkSquatina tergocellataLeast Concern (LC)Eastern Indian Ocean: endemic to Australia.
17.Hidden Angel SharkSquatina occultaEndangered (EN)Southwest Atlantic: southern Brazil to Argentina
18.Disparate Angel SharkSquatina heteropteraNot EvaluatedWestern Atlantic: Gulf of Mexico.
19.Clouded Angel SharkSquatina nebulosaVulnerable (VU)Northwest Pacific: Southeastern Sea of Japan to Taiwan, including Japan, Korea, China.
20.Ocellated Angel SharkSquatina tergocellatoidesVulnerableNorthwest Pacific: Taiwan Straits.
21.Sand DevilSquatina dumerilLeast Concern (LC)Western Atlantic: southern New England, the USA to the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica, and Venezuela. Also in Columbia
22.Angular Angel SharkSquatina guggenheimEndangered (EN)Southwest Atlantic: southern Brazil and Argentina
23.David’s Angel SharkSquatina davidNear Threatened (NT)Caribbean: Colombia to Suriname along the northern coast of South America
24.Sawback Angel SharkSquatina aculeataCritically Endangered (CE)Eastern Atlantic: western Mediterranean, Morocco, Senegal, Guinea to Nigeria,and Gabon to Angola.

The Appearance of Angel Sharks

These species of Ocean sharks have a posterior part with muscular appearance typical of most other sharks. However, the anterior part is broad and flattened.

They have five gill slits on their back. And, their eyes and spiracles dorsally located. Also, they have two dorsal fins with no anal fin which is very unusual for sharks.

The pectoral fins and pelvic fins are large and horizontally supported. There is the upper and lower lobe of the caudal fin. Whereby, the upper lobe is shorter in length than the lower lobe.

The jaws of the Angel sharks are extensible and can snap upwards rapidly as a gesture to capture their prey. More so, they possess long teeth that are in the likeness of needles.

Most of the Angel shark species grow to a maximum length of 5ft (1.5 m). Although, the Japanese angel shark (Squatina japonica) notably grows up to 6.5ft (2 m).

Identified Deformities of Angel Sharks

Some of these sharks’ species have skeletal deformities such as humpback curvature (kyphosis), lateral spinal curvature (scoliosis), and axial spinal curvature (lordosis).

Other forms of deformities include missing fins, deformed snout, additional fins and more. In all, it is only but a few sharks that have been found to have these abnormalities.

The known causes of these deformities include genetic factors, dietary imbalance, parasites, traumatic injuries, or stress in the examined specimen.

The skeletal deformities do not significantly affect the hunting capacity of the Angel shark specifically Squatina squatina. Certainly, this is because this species is an active ambush predator that buries itself lying in wait of its prey.

Of recent, there are speculations resulting from research that humans contribute more to the physical injuries of these shark species. Of course, constant human activities in coastal areas where most of these sharks’ species habit can lead to their injury.

What Would a Habitat of Angel Sharks Look Like?

Angel sharks are Ocean sharks. Thus, they inhabit the tropical and temperate marine environments. And, they would usually stay in shallow waters at depths between 10 to 492ft (3 to 150 m) off coasts.

During the day, these sharks will tend to bury themselves in sandy or muddy substrates. As such, they will remain like that in camouflage waiting for prey that might cross their path.

However, at night they move to the seafloor in more active behavior. And, they will roam the bottom of the sea in search of food.

The preys for Angel sharks include smaller fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.

Typical Behavior of Angel Sharks

The Angel sharks are bottom-dwellers that are not mostly active. As such, they tend to be peaceful and would not attack anyone except for their prey. Or, in the event, they feel provoked by anyone touching their head or tail.

They possess sharp teeth and strong jaws. Thus, they inflict painful deep cut through their bite. Certainly, there are records of attacks from these sharks. These attacks are mostly due to accidental stepping upon newborn Angel sharks buried in substrates. More so, for divers trying to grab them, they will always try to attack.

The breathing process of Angel sharks is quite different from most other bottom-dwelling fish. And, while others would pump out water through their oropharyngeal cavity during respiration, Angel sharks will rather use gill flaps which are under their body to pump out water.

This breathing process will make them not draw much attention. Thus, completing their camouflage as they lay an ambush for their prey.

Commercial Importance of Angel Sharks

Angel sharks from the beginning came as a byproduct of a commercial fishing process using gillnets. It had no commercial value and only used for crab bait. Thus, the aquatic community refers to it as “monkfish”.

However, a fish processor Michael Wagner in 1977 with the cooperation of commercial fishermen in Santa Barbara, California developed the market for Angel sharks.

This increased heavily the yearly take of Angel sharks in Central California leading to the decline in the population of these sharks species. Consequently, the use of gillnet for fishing in the nearshore waters of California State was prohibited. This was in an attempt to regulate the fishing of Angel sharks in the State. Further, there was a fishing restriction in more areas where the Pacific Angel shark (Squatina californica) occur.

The decline in the Angel sharks population and government intervention did not end in California. As a result, the UK government obtained full Angel shark protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Above all, the very much abundant Angel shark in the Atlantic Ocean Squatina squatina became listed as Critically Endangered (in 2010) by the IUCN.

40 Amazing Angel Sharks’ Facts at a Glance

Listed here are interesting Facts about Angel Sharks that you would be glad to learn about.

  1. Most species of Angel sharks at the adult stage usually grow to a maximum length of 5ft (1.5 m). However, the Japanese Angel shark Squatina japonica can grow surprisingly to 6.5ft (2 m) in length.
  2. The Average weight of Angel sharks is around 77 pounds (35 kg).
  3. As observed in the wild, the age range of Angel sharks extends between 25 to 35 years. Of course, they are not active swimmers and have a slow rate of metabolism.
  4. These sharks are mostly nocturnal and would only make an active move in the dark to the surface of Sea-bottoms. Nevertheless, during the day they would hide under sandy or muddy ocean substrate in ambush for prey. They use the ability of planktons to emit light (bioluminescence) to see their prey.
  5. Angel sharks are sometimes referred to as “monkfish” which is also a common name that applies to fish species under the genus Lophius. Or, “Sand devil” which correspondingly refers to the sharks’ likeness for a sandy substrate.
  6. These species will migrate along the coastline toward the poles during changes in season. Thus, making them migratory species, especially the Squatina squatina species which engage in large scale coastal migration.
  7. In their habitat, they will usually reside in shallow waters that are somewhere before 492 feet (150 m). This includes both temperate and tropical areas. Though, few species live beyond this depth up to 4300 feet (1300 m).
  8. Angel sharks are ambush predators. That is, they can trap their prey through camouflage. Of course, they have mottled skin with spots that comes in black, grey, white, red, and green colors. These spots will help them blend in with the mud or sand where they bury themselves in hiding.
  9. They have a great sensing ability that helps them notice the presence of their prey. Consequently, they will normally strike at a 90-degree angle grabbing their prey within a flash time of 0.1 seconds, using powerful suction.
  10. When they are hunting, they stay in a place for about 10 days before changing location. More so, they prefer to stay in a small environment of about 50 feet. And, except they are doing their seasonal migration, they rarely move to open waters.
  11. Angel sharks choose their prey location depending on the amount of fish available there. Thus, they will go to places with plentiful fish. These places include flat sandy and muddy areas in near reefs, between rocks, kelp forests and submarine canyons.
  12. These shark species are carnivores. As a result, their diet includes fish, squid, crustaceans, and mollusks. They would prefer a diet of skates and flatfishes.
  13. The location of Angel sharks’ eyes is on top of their heads. This enables them to see their prey even while they bury themselves in sands.
  14. Angel sharks have spiracles behind their eyes. This is a respiratory organ quite unusual that carries oxygen directly to the brain.
  15. The Angel sharks usually possess a white and smooth underside.
  16. While the Angel sharks look like rays, they have five-gill slits just by the sides of their heads instead underneath. This is one characteristic of Angel sharks making them different from rays.
  17. In the largemouth of Angel sharks are very sharp teeth rows lying at the end of their blunted snout.
  18. On their upper jaw, Angel sharks have nine rows of teeth. While on their lower jaw, they have ten rows of teeth with a space at the center containing no teeth. All these perfects their activity for catching and eating their prey.
  19. These sharks’ species have two barbels at the end of their snout. The barbels are sensory organs in the form of whiskers which helps Angel sharks detect the presence of prey. Thus, getting ready for striking.
  20. The pectoral fins of Angel sharks expand laterally. As such, it differs from that of most other sharks which attach to the sides of their heads.
  21. The Angel sharks possess no anal fin which is very unusual when comparing them with most sharks.
  22. Another unusual feature of Angel sharks is that the lower lobe of their caudal fin is longer than the upper lobe and the fins on their tail. As a result of this, they can easily propel themselves upward in an attempt to catch prey.
  23. At a young age, there are visible rows of small thorns along the body of Angel sharks. Also, they possess these thorns on their heads. These are features that help to prevent attacks on the sharks. But, as the sharks grow older, they tend to lose these thorns leaving them bare.
  24. The Juvenile Angel sharks have ocellus or fake eyes that serve as camouflage to prevent predator attacks. However, these would later disappear once these sharks attain adulthood.
  25. Full-grown Angel sharks have minimal predators. And, among these predators are white sharks, northern elephant seals, the broad-nose seven-gill shark, and human being known to have been feeding on these shark species.
  26. Currently, most species of Angel sharks are critically endangered as listed under IUCN Redlist.
  27. The greatest threat to the existence of Angel sharks is human activities mostly involving commercial fishing. Although, at first fishermen rarely go seeking Angel sharks due to their poor commercial value. Thus, they are only caught as a byproduct of commercial fishing and used as bait. However, after developing the market for these sharks, they also serve as fish meal increasing their demand.
  28. Angel sharks are generally harmless to humans and only attack when the activities of humans disturb them. This includes unintentional contact with the sharks and intentionally trying to capture these fishes.
  29. Except it is the season to mate, Angel sharks prefer a solitary lifestyle. Thus, they would stay alone most of the time. Their mating season is typically spring and in warmer waters.
  30. The male Angel sharks attain sexual maturity at the length between 30 – 32 inches (76 – 80 cm). They will usually attain this size by 8 years of age.
  31. The female Angel sharks will attain sexual maturity at the length between 35 – 39 inches (89 – 99 cm). And, they attain this length at about 13 years of age.
  32. The female Angel sharks are ovoviviparous. As a result, their young ones form in eggs that gestate in their womb and hatch inside their body before releasing them.
  33. The pregnancy of Angel sharks would normally last about 8 months.
  34. At birth, Angel sharks will deliver a range of 8 to 15 pups in a litter. It all depends on the size of the Angel shark carrying them. A baby Angel shark would be about 9 – 12 inches in length.
  35. In the end, after surviving predation and other threats, only about 20% of all Angel sharks’ pups will grow to adulthood.
  36. The popular Pacific Angel sharks (Squatina Californica) habit the waters of Chile and Ecuador extending through to the Gulf of California moving up to Alaska. These locations also depend on the time of the year.
  37. Angel sharks are extant in the Black sea, the Mediterranean, and off the coasts of Australia extending up to Japan.
  38. Today several laws are protecting Angel sharks from poaching which is a threat to the existence of these sharks. Some of these laws include the full species protection under the United Kingdom Wildlife and Countryside Act, and also, the protection against commercial fishing and the use of gillnets in California Proposition 132.
  39. There are 24 identified species making up the genus Squatina which are Angel sharks.
  40. Angel sharks are found all over the world making them truly unique with their amazing biological variations.

Final Note

Angel sharks are really amazing Ocean sharks with interesting features. Their differences from other sharks make them standout species that anyone would want to learn about.

This page covered all the interesting facts you need to know about Angel sharks. As such, you already know the conservation efforts put in place to preserve the existence of these species. As such, preserving sharks’ biodiversity.

In all, the species of Angel spread around the world. And, every one of these species needs adequate protection. Thus, all hands need to be on deck.

Learn more about Angel Sharks:

  1. Angel Shark Wikipedia (edited 15 January 2020), Wikipedia. Online here
  2. Angel Shark Fish, The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Online here
  3. Amazing Facts About Angel Sharks, (Michael Rogers, April 2016), Sharksider. Online here
  4. Angel Shark Facts, Softschools. Online here