The angel shark is an unusual genus of sharks with a flattened body and broad pectoral fins that gives it a strong resemblance to skates. There are over 16 known species of sharks.
Angel sharks live worldwide in temperate and tropical seas.
While the forward part of an Angel shark’s body is broad and flattened, the rear part retains a muscular appearance.
Its eyes and spiracles are on top, and the five gill slits are underneath.
They have long, wide fins that look like wings, giving it its name. It is also known as the monk shark, sand devil, and monkfish. Angel sharks are frequently caught for food.
Most types of Angel sharks grow to a length of 1.5 m (5 ft), with the Japanese angel shark, known to reach two metres. Angel sharks possess extensible jaws that can rapidly snap upwards to capture prey, and have long, needle-like teeth.
They bury themselves in sand or mud lying in wait for their prey, which includes fish, and various types of mollusks.
When buried in the sand or mud only their eyes and part of the top of the body is exposed. They have a blunt nose and are camouflaged to blend into the sand and rocks of the ocean bed.
They spend the day hidden in the sand and rocks of the ocean bed. As fish swim by, the angel shark bursts up and surprises the prey, catching it in its trap-like jaws.
Although they are not normally aggressive, they do bite when stepped on or handled. If they are left alone they will not attack.
The sharks were long considered of no commercial interest, but in 1978, Michael Wagner, a fish processor in Santa Barbara, California, began to promote angel sharks, later 310 metric tons were taken off California in 1984.
The fishery industry devastated the population of angel sharks but it’s now regulated.
Angel sharks have historically been heavily fished but education has played a role in reducing over fishing of these slow-reproducing sea animals.