Pacific Angelshark

The Pacific angelshark is a species of angelshark living in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is known for its ambush tactics while hunting, and like other angelsharks, they resemble rays and skates.

Pacific Angelshark Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Chondrichthyes
Order Squatiniformes
Family Squatinidae
Genus Squatina
Scientific Name S. californica

Description

Like most other angelsharks, the Pacific angelshark superficially resembles a ray. On average, they are 59 inches long and weigh about 60 lbs. Their eyes are located on the top of their heads, and inside their mouths, one can observe nine rows of teeth on the upper jaw and ten teeth rows on the lower one.

This shark has broad, angular pelvic and pectoral fins with pointed tips and two dorsal fins situated much lower down its body. Spikes are running down their body, though these become less prominent as the shark ages. Dorsally the shark appears brown, gray, or reddish-brown, while ventrally, it is white. Adults have large blotches surrounded by tiny spots, while juveniles have ocelli on their uppersides.

Where do they live

Pacific angelsharks have been commonly spotted from the southeastern corner of Alaska to the Gulf of California, encompassing the whole Baja peninsula. There have also been sightings along Ecuador all the way to the southern tip of Chile. However, the authenticity of these sightings has yet to be confirmed.

Its preferred habitats appear to be coastal areas like bays and estuaries with soft bottoms. They live around kelp forests, rocky reefs, and submarine canyons. Most often seen at depths of 9.8–299 ft, though there have been reports of this shark swimming at depths of 673 ft.

Behavior

Hunting

These sharks are ambush predators, remaining stationary in a select position using their strong vision to identify unsuspecting prey passing within 15 cm. It then thrusts its head at 90⁰, generates a strong force of suction to draw its prey in, and secures the kill with its sharp teeth.

Their diet consists of bony fish like blacksmiths, croakers, damselfishes, flatfishes, kelp bass, lizardfish, mackerels, queenfish, sardines, soldierfish, and toadfish. They also feed on shrimp.

An angelshark will hunt in the same site for around ten days. Once the prey becomes wise to its location, it will move to a new place to hunt.

Migratory

As indicated above, the movements of this shark are tied heavily to its diet. After prey starts avoiding it, the shark will nocturnally move to another location about 4.5 mi away. Studies show that the range of this shark remains small – about 0.6 mi2 – and that over three months, the sharks covered a distance of 47 miles in this range.

Reproductive

They give live birth to a litter ranging from 1-11, the average being 6. Females give birth at depths of 180–295 ft to protect them from predation after a gestation period of 10 months. Only about 20% of these sharks live long enough to become sexually mature, which they do at around 8-13 years when they are about 3.0–3.3 ft long. These sharks live for about 25-35 years.

Adaptations

The coloration of these sharks provides excellent camouflage, which helps them hunt and avoid predators like the great white shark, the broadnose sevengill shark, and the northern elephant seal.

Interactions with humans

They generally ignore humans, but they can inflict a painful bite if provoked. The meat of this shark is often consumed, with a commercial gillnet fishery operating off Santa Barbara, making it a substitute for the common thresher shark, a more seasonal catch. However, the decline of the Californian fishing industry has prevented the population from falling into a steep decline. As a result, the IUCN lists the Pacific angelshark as “Near Threatened” or “NT”.

Sources

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