The angelshark’s range has contracted by more than 80% in the past century.
Angelshark Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Squatina squatina
Angelshark Conservation Status
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The Angelshark‘s range has contracted by more than 80% in the past century.
The common Angelshark is a species of nocturnal bottom-dwelling shark that used to be quite common in the Mediterranean Sea and Northeast Atlantic. It is a type of “flat shark,” meaning the pelvic and pectoral fins are flat and wing-like, giving the shark an appearance similar to rays. Squatina squatina is the only species of angel shark that lives around the coast of the British Isles. Along with other members of its genus, Angelsharks are among the most threatened of all sharks and rays thanks to massive over fishing and habitat degradation.
5 Angelshark Facts
- Flat Sharks: Angelsharks are characterized by their batoid shape (they have a flat, disk-like body similar to a ray or skate fish.)
- Only species in the British Isles: The common Angelshark (Squatina squatina) is the only member of the Angel Shark genus that lives around the coast of the British Isles seo
- Ambush predators: Angelsharks are ambush predators. They rely on camouflage to hide away till prey gets close to them before attacking.
- Shrinking range: The Angelshark’s range has contracted by more than 80% in the past century. The species is now rare in many areas where they used to be common.
- Gentle sharks: The Angelshark is typically not aggressive towards humans. However, it can still deliver a potentially severe bite if provoked.
Classification and Scientific name
The name Angelshark applies to both a species of fish as well as the genus they belong to. The scientific name of the common Angelshark is Squatina squatina. They belong to the genus Squatina along with 21 other angel shark species. The Angelshark is a member of the family Squatinidae, a group of unusual sharks known for their flattened body and broad pectoral fins. This genus Squatina is the only genus in this family and the order Squatiniformes as well.
The name Squatina is derived from the Latin word for skate. French zoologist André Duméril adapted it as the genus name for all angel sharks in 1806, even though it originally belonged to the common Angelshark alone. The species also goes by other common names such as Monkfish and Angelfish.
Like all other members of their family, Angelsharks are characterized by a batoid shape. They have a flattened body, and their pectoral fins form a flat wing-like structure with anterior lobes that are not fused to their head. This gives their entire body a broad and stocky appearance that looks a lot like rays or skate fishes. Their eyes are positioned on the upper surface of their body.
The Angelshark is the largest member of its family. Females are typically larger, with a length of 2.4m (7.9ft) compared to an average length of 1.8m (5.9ft). The maximum reported weight of an Angelshark is 80 kg (180 lb).
While the common Angelshark is similar in appearance to other members of its species, it has some distinct differences. The most notable difference is the presence of simple conical nasal barbels. The pectoral fins are also higher and wider, and it has small spines on the snout and above its eyes.
The Angelshark’s coloration is typically gray to reddish. It can also be greenish brown. Most individuals have small black and white spots all over their bodies. Juveniles typically have more color patterns than adults.
Distribution, Population, and Habitat
The common Angelshark is a bottom-dwelling shark species that spend most of its time buried in coastal and outer-continental shelf sediments. The shark’s most notable habitat is in the Mediterranean sea and Eastern Atlantic, where it typically occupies brackish waters and estuaries. They are typically found in water depths of 16 to 492 feet.
Due to an observed steep decline in the population of Angelshark, the IUCN has categorized the species as critically endangered. According to estimates, the Angelshark population has decreased by more than 80% in the past century. The ongoing threat from commercial fisheries and the fishes’ slow rate of reproduction means the specie’s population will have a hard time recovering.
Where to Find Angelsharks and How to Catch Thems
Historically, Angelsharks used to be quite common in the temperate waters of the northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Seas. Today, their range is fast shrinking. According to the IUCN Red List, it is possible that this species is now locally extinct in the North Sea. Their only remaining stronghold is the Canary Islands, especially around the coast of the British Isles and in the Mediterranean. Here, divers and fishers still spot them regularly.
Specific Locations Where These Sharks Can Be Found
Predators and Prey
Angelsharks are most active at night when they hunt prey by ambushing. They can camouflage by hiding in sediment until prey swims close to them and then attacks. Scientists also believe that Angelsharks can use their sensitive barbels to detect the electric fields produced by other animals.
What Eats Angelsharks ?
Humans are the main threat to the population of Angelsharks. Both commercial and artisanal fisheries affect this shark species.
What Do Angelsharks Eat?
The Angelshark’s diet consists of a range of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and even aquatic birds. This shark feeds most commonly on bottom-dwelling bony fishes such as flatfishes. However, they can also prey on cartilaginous fishes as well as invertebrates.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Not much is known about the reproduction, growth, and lifespan of the common Angelshark. However, like other shark species, they are aplacental viviparous. This means the young hatch inside the mother’s uterus, where they are nourished in a yolk sac until they’re born alive.
Female Angelsharks typically give birth to about 7 to 25 live pups on a 2- or 3-year reproductive cycle. The gestation period of the Angelshark is about 8 to 12 months. Newborns typically measure about 24 to 30 cm (9.4–11.8 in) in length. They become sexually mature between 8 to 13 years of age.
Angelsharks in Fishing and Cooking
Due to their sedentary, bottom-dwelling lifestyle, angel sharks are typically caught in demersal and trawl fisheries. In many cases, they are caught accidentally. However, humans may fish for Angelsharks intentionally as well.
In fact, humans have eaten Angelsharks for thousands of years, with references to their light and easily digestible meat dating back to several centuries ago. Today, despite their endangered status, Angelsharks are still caught for food by many fisheries. They can be sold fresh or dried and salted. This shark is also a target by those who use it as a source for shark liver oil and fishmeal.View all 135 animals that start with A
Angelshark FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Where are angelsharks found?
Common angelsharks are most commonly found in coastal and outer continental shelf habitats. They have been known to live buried in sediments in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic ocean. They may also live in brackish water or estuaries.
Are angelsharks aggressive?
Angelsharks are generally not aggressive. However, there have been cases of them biting fishermen or divers when they’re provoked. Their bites are generally not severe.
How do you recognize angelsharks?
Angelsharks are characterized by their flat and broad body which resembles a ray or skate. They can be distinguished from other species of angelsharks by their simple nasal barbels and their high and wide pectoral fins. This shark species also have small spines on its snout and above its eyes.
What do angelsharks eat?
Common angelsharks are nocturnal ambush predators. They feed on bottom-dwelling flatfishes, crustaceans, cephalopods, and molluscs.
- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/angel-shark-fish-genus
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelshark
- Fisheries NOAA, Available here: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/common-angelshark
- Edge of Existence, Available here: http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/angelshark/