Angel sharks are flat-bodied sharks of the genus squatinae. They look like manta rays with their hooded head and flat body. The only distinction in their body structure is the presence of the pectoral and pelvic fins which are not attached to the head and splayed out like angels wings hence; the name. They thrive in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Southern Africa to the Californian coasts and Costa Rica to Southern Chile. |
They are unique from other species of sharks in that they are benthic. They dwell on the ocean floor and bury themselves under the sand or under the bottom mud to hide using camouflage in search of a prey. They are often found near canyons, rocks and kelp forests. They stay at a depth of one to two hundred meters on the sea floor. They lack anal fins and their spine is absent from their dorsal fins. Their color is often whitish or brownish with blotches of red, brown and gray which helps them in their camouflage. Their teeth are pointed and conical with smooth edges and broad bases. The upper jaw is set 9-9 and lower jaw is set 10-10 with large gaps in its symphisis.
Angel sharks can grow up to 60 inches and matures up to 35 years. Their maximum weight is 70 pounds. Males mature after 8 years of life and females after 13 years of life. They prey on bony fishes like the flat fish and croakers as well as crustaceans and mollusks. They are nocturnal creatures so they feed at night. They use a surprise ambush attack when an unsuspecting prey comes around. They are slow but their preys are slower. The only predator who can out-power them is of course their distant relative, the great white shark.
Little is known about the reproduction process of the angel sharks. It occurs during summer and the reproduction takes place through aplacental viviparity. This means that the young are nourished without the aid of a placenta. Only 20% of these pups grow into maturity.
Although these creatures are pretty harmless to humans because they actually do not attack when left alone, angel sharks can still pose threat to humans when provoked. With its powerful jaws and sharp teeth it certainly can inflict painful lacerations to the human skin. It will bite if a diver grabs its tail or the head.
Angel sharks are critically endangered species as of 2010. They were hunted for their flesh in the fisheries using spears and gillnets and they were commercially sold for human consumption. Commercial catch ranged from 366 pounds in 1977 and grew to astounding 700,000 pound in 1984. This really posed the threat to their survival pushing them to extinction. Today though, they are being protected by the SharkAngel organization which aims to conserve and preserve the specie. The World Conservation Union and the UK government afforded full protection for them with the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 2008.
Visit SharkAngels.org and hear more about sharks and get involve in shark conservation.
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