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Pacific Angel Shark

Rohini Mohan
The Pacific angel shark is a unique member within the shark species, because it is the only one which is completely flat and looks like an alien ship. It looks very similar to a stingray, and uses excellent camouflage in order to hunt.
Angels sharks are extremely different from all types of sharks and do not fall into the dreaded man eater genus. The Pacific angel shark has a flattened triangular body, much like a small sting ray; though, without the long sting or tail. This flattened structure is created as a result of the flat and horizontal pectoral fins.
These sharks are predominantly found in the shallow and coastal waters that stretch from Gulf of California to Alaska in the Pacific Ocean and in Ecuador until the salt waters of Chile. Let us learn more about this fascinating creature.


▶ These sharks like staying hidden on the shallow ocean floor where it camouflages itself with the surrounding sediment.
▶ It has an extended mouth right in front of its snout. The mouth has 9 rows of teeth on both sides of the upper jaw and 10 rows of teeth on both sides of the lower. There are gaps in between each row of teeth, which are empty and do not hold teeth. Each tooth has a smooth edge and are not very sharp or pointed.
▶ The eyes are situated closer to the snout and are on top of the head.
▶ This shark is a visual predator, which means that they have excellent eyesight and hunt their prey by focusing on the bioluminenscence of plankton and marine protozoa which emit natural light from their systems during nights.
▶ The dorsal or skin color of the shark is usually gray, brownish or red in color on the upper surface and has a white underbelly. The dorsal also has these dark patches or rings which allows it to camouflage itself aptly.
▶ It is also an ambush predator, because it conceals its form on the ocean floor. When a prey is within grasp, it presses its pectoral fins at the bottom and propels its head upwards or forwards, during which time its jaws protrude outwards causing a funnel which acts as a suction pipe and absorbs the prey.
While it rises up for the catch, the shark's eyes roll upwards and into the head, so as to protect its eyes from being attacked while the prey struggles in between its jaws.
▶ These sharks grow up to the maximum length of 4.9 ft or 1.5 m. However, these sharks have many subspecies which mate with each other and thus create more unique diversities within its species.
This tendency is known as Heterozygosity, wherein the gene of one subspecies of angel shark finds compatibility within the uterus of an Angel Pacific shark without complications. This has resulted in a remarkable change in the estimated size and age of reproductive maturity in many subspecies of the angel sharks.

Diet and Reproduction

▶ This shark feeds predominantly on bony fish such as sardines, kelp bass, flatfish, queen fish and mackerels, which are its favorite. It also likes feeding on spawning squid, toad fish and shrimp.
▶ This shark in specific can stay buried under ocean sediments for days together, without having to move an inch. They stay unmoving for innumerable hours waiting for a suitable prey to reach within hunting proximity. These sharks choose strategic locations where they can lie either towards or parallel to a protective vertical structure.
This becomes it base for the next 7-10 days until the prey realize that certain specific locations contain threats and must not be approached. After which the shark will shift its location, sometimes traveling 7 km in a single night so as to reach a suitable hideout and hunting ground.
▶ These hideouts usually include substrates or sandy surfaces near reefs, which are the breeding as well as feeding grounds for various fish and shoals.
▶ This shark is also a aplacental viviparous, which means that it nourishes its embryo within a yolk sack in its uterus. The gestation period is ten months after which the baby sharks are born.
▶ Every female shark gives birth to about 6-11 offspring, after which they mate again within a few days.

Why is the Pacific Angel Shark Endangered?

These sharks are considered a delicacy and are caught for their meat. This shark was made a part of the commercially executed gillnet in California during 1976, but was discontinued in 1991 after the number of catches reduced drastically.
The reason being that these sharks were being caught at a rapid rate because its demand had skyrocketed, but their population kept plummeting rapidly, because of their slow reproduction rate. These sharks are easier to catch because they do not prefer moving away from their habitat, which makes them a feasible and convenient target.
They usually go deeper into the ocean to protect themselves from being caught. Nonetheless, modern fishing technologies has made it possible for them to be hunted even from lower depths. The angel Pacific shark is not exactly endangered, but is categorized within the vulnerable bracket, if hunting is not monitored, they'll soon become an endangered species.