Pacific Angel Shark

Pacific Angel Shark, Squatina californica

The Pacific Angel Shark, Squatina californica, whose Spanish common name is ángelote del Pacifico, is a species in the Angel Shark or Squatinidae Family, known collectively as ángelotes in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-three species in the Squatinidae family, all within the genus Squatina, three of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Pacific Angel Sharks have greatly flattened elongated bodies with a diamond-shaped front half. They are mottled brown or grayish in color with small randomly spaced dark spots covering their body and fins. Their blind side is off-white. Their head is angular and broad at the rear with a distinct neck that is separated from the pectoral fins. Their mouth opens at the front. Their nostrils have a conical barbel with a flattened tip and are more widely spaced than their relatively large eyes, which are on top of the head and precede a pair of prominent spiracles. They have five gill slits that open on their underside. They do not have an anal fin. Their caudal fin has a larger lower lobe; their two dorsal fins are very small, of equal size, and located at the base of the tail; and their pectoral and pelvic fins are enlarged. They have denticles on the lower surface and along the margins of their anal, caudal, pectoral, and pelvic fins. Juveniles have thorns that are not present in adults.

The Pacific Angel Sharks are a benthic species found inshore in coastal waters at depths up to 670 feet; they are also known to enter estuaries. They reach a maximum length of 1.52 meters (5 feet and 0 inches), with females being larger than males. They are found over and within sandy and muddy bottoms lying dormant and half-buried with their eyes protracted during the day and only emerge at night to feed. They consume benthic fish including crustaceans, flatfish, and mollusks and have the ability to detect weak electric fields generated by their prey. They tend to migrate to deeper waters during warm periods. They are masters at camouflage and have the ability to rapidly change colors to match their substrate. Reproduction is via yolk sac with offspring born alive in litter sizes of 7 to 25 and measuring 21 to 26 cm in length.

In Mexican waters the Pacific Angel Shark are found along the entire west coast of Baja and throughout the Sea of Cortez. They are absent from along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Pacific Angel Shark is most likely confused with the Giant Electric Ray, Narcine entemedor (uniform color; large rounded head profile; large pectoral fins).

The Pacific Angel Sharks are rare and of limited commercial value. Certain Squatinidae are utilized by some global cultures fresh and dried salted for human consumption and in fish oil and fishmeal.

Pacific Angel Shark (1)

Pacific Angel Shark (2)

Pacific Angel Shark, Squatina californica, juvenile. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2009. Length: 25 cm (10 inches).

Pacific Angel Shark, Squatina californica, juvenile, albino. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2009. Length: 24 cm (9.5 inches).

Pacific Angel Shark (5)

Pacific Angel Shark, Squatina californica, head shot and pectoral fin denticles. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, April 2011. Length: 27 cm (11 inches).