[Download Factsheet]
Download PDF
background image

No Records

Map base conforms with ICES grid squares.

Angelshark, Monkfish, Angel Fiddle Fish, Angel Puffy Fish, Angel Ray, 
Angelfish, Fiddle Fish, Ange de Mer Commun (Fr), Angelote (Es).

Squatina vulgaris (Risso, 1810), Squatina angelus (Blainville, 1816), 
Squatina laevis (Cuvier, 1817), Squatina lewis (Couch, 1825), Squalraia 
acephala (de la Pylaie, 1835), Squalraia cervicata (de la Pylaie, 1835), 
Squatina europaea (Swainson, 1839).



Dorsoventrally flattened with large pectoral and pelvic fins.


Two large dorsal fins on tail.


Large caudal fin.


Conical nasal barbs and smooth or weakly fringed nasal flaps.


No eyespot pattern on body.


Grey to red-brown, sometimes to green-brown.


Small white spots and scattered dark blotches.


Light lines covering body in some populations.


To maximum length of at least 183cm, possibly to 244cm.

The Angelshark is an extremely distinctive species in the northeast 
Atlantic. Dorsoventrally flattened it resembles a ray (Torpediniformes 
in particular) more than a shark, although the pectoral fins are not 
fused to the head. These fins are very high and wide with broadly 
rounded rear tips. Like the Torpediniformes, the dorsal and caudal 
fins are large and well developed with no associated spines. Small 
spines may be present on the midline from the head to the first dorsal 
fin and between the dorsal fin bases. They can also be found on the 
snout and above the eyes. The eyes are small in relation to the body 
and the spiracles are horizontally elongated (Compagno, 1984).

Dorsally the Angelshark can be grey to reddish brown and 

occasionally to green brown. There is normally a pattern of small 
white spots and scattered dark blotches (Compagno, 1984). In the 
Canary Islands, animals are regularly encountered by divers with 
lattice pattern of light lines across the back which camouflages them 
perfectly against the black and white sand (Murch, 2008). Ventrally 
it is paler to white. The largest recorded size is 183cm total length, 
although there have been unsubstantiated reports of individuals up 
to 244cm in length (Compagno, 1984).

The Angelshark was historically found from Norway and Sweden 







Text & Illustrations © Shark Trust 2009

Dorsal View (


Ventral View (



Squatina squatina








to North Africa, 
including the 
Mediterranean and 
Black Seas, Iceland 
and the Canary 
Islands. Its range is 
now significantly 
reduced and it is 
considered extinct 
in the North Sea and 
parts of the northern 
(Morey et al., 2006). It 
has been extirpated 
from the Bay of 
Biscay, the Adriatic 
Sea, the Irish Sea 
and English Channel 
(Dulvey et al., 2003).

background image


Squatina aculeata, Sawback Angelshark
Squatina oculata, Smoothback Angelshark



Text & Illustrations © Shark Trust 2009

(Not to scale)

Supported by:

Squatina squatina, Angelshark

Squatina aculeata, Sawback Angelshark

Squatina oculata, Smoothback Angelshark

background image


Squatina squatina


Large, sharp, single-cusped teeth, 
18–22 in each jaw (Ellis, 2003).


The Angelshark is found around coasts and estuaries from 5–150m. 
A nocturnal species, it spends the day resting on soft substrate such 
as sand and mud with only its eyes and spiracles showing. Hunting 
at night, it can be seen swimming strongly off the bottom. In the 
north of its range the Angelshark is migratory, moving north during 
the summer and south during the winter (Compagno, 1984).


The Angelshark feeds primarily on bony fishes, especially flatfishes 
but also other demersal fishes and skates, crustaceans and molluscs 
(Compagno, 1984). Specific prey items include Hake (Merlucius 
merlucius), Sparids (Pagellus erythrinus), grunts (Pomadasys 
spp.) flatfish (Bothus spp., Citharus linguatula), Sole (Solea 
solea), Squid (Loligo vulgaris), Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis, Sepiola 
spp.), and crustaceans (Dorippe lanata, Geryon tridens, Dromia 
vulgaris, Goneplax rhomboides, Macropipus corregatus, Atelecyclus 
rotundatus). It occasionally swallows more unusual items including 
eelgrass and seabirds (a single record of a cormorant exists) (Morey 
et al., 2006).


In the Mediterranean, females reach sexual maturity at 128-169cm 
in length. Males mature smaller at 80–132cm. Age at maturity and 
longevity are not currently known. An ovoviviparous species, the 
Angelshark gives birth to litters of 7–25 pups which can vary from 
24–30cm in length, apparently in relation to the size of the female. 
The gestation period is 8–10 months with parturition occurring 
around July in the north of its range. In the Mediterranean birth 
occurs earlier around December and January (Morey et al., 2006).



Text & Illustrations © Shark Trust 2009


background image


There are currently no directed fisheries for the Angelshark but it 
is taken as bycatch in trawl, longline and set net fisheries across 
much of its reduced range. If landed its flesh can be used for human 
consumption, either fresh or dried-salted, its liver for oil and its 
carcass can be processed for fishmeal. It is often discarded however 
(Morey et al; 2006).


Critically Endangered (2006).

Due to its nature of lying motionless on sandy and muddy bottoms 
during the day, the Angelshark is highly susceptible to trawl 
fisheries. Combined with its relatively large size and the increase 
in trawl fishing effort in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean 
over the last 50 years, it has been significantly affected by fishing 
mortality across its range. Anthropogenic disturbance through 
habitat degradation and an increase in recreational scuba diving 
may have also had an adverse effect on populations (Morey et al., 

Evidence of dramatic declines in Angelshark populations can be 

found from as far back as the start of the 20th century. Historic data 
from a tuna trap operating in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea shows 
that between 1898 and 1905, 134 specimens were caught. Between 
1914 and 1922, this had dropped to 15 specimens. This reduction 
in numbers coincides with the start of trawling activity in the area. 
Currently, catches are reported from Albania, France, Malta, Tunisia 
and Turkey, combined catches from which dropped from 17 tons 
a year in the 1980’s to 1 or 2 tons a year in the 1990’s (Morey et al., 

The Angelshark has been proposed for protection under both 

the OSPAR Priority List of Threatened Species and the UK Wildlife 
and Countryside Act (1981), but only the latter application was 
successful. This means it is protected from killing, injury or taking 
up to 6 nautical miles from English and Welsh coastal baselines. It is 
listed under Annex III of the Barcelona Convention as it is a species 
whose exploitation is limited in the Mediterranean.

In January 2009, all species of angelshark received protection 

from the European Council in all EC waters, meaning that 
they cannot be targeted or retained if taken as bycatch. As 
elasmobranches have no swim bladder that can overinflate or 
rupture, they are more likely to survive capture and release than 
teleost fish (Defra, 2008). 

Throughout the rest of its range, the Angelshark is indirectly 

protected in 3 marine reserves around the Balearic Islands. These 
reserves, along with places in the Canary Islands, are the only areas 
left in the Angelshark’s former range where it can still be regularly 
encountered, leading to an increase in recreational dive tourism 
(Murch, 2008).

•  Handle with care.
•  Sharp teeth and powerful jaws.
•  Abrasive skin.



Text & Illustrations © Shark Trust 2009

Supported by:



background image

COMPAGNO, L. J. V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue: Volume 4, Part 1, 

Sharks of the World, An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of 
Species Known to Date. FAO. Rome, Italy.

DEFRA, 2008. Impact Assessment of Tope Shark protection 

measures (Galeorhinus galeus).

DULVEY, N. K., SADOVY, Y., REYNOLDS, J. D. 2003. Extinction 

Vulnerability in Marine Populations. Fish and Fisheries, Vol. 4, 

ELLIS, J. 2003. Key to Skates, Rays and Ray-like Fishes in UK Inshore 

Waters. The Shark Trust.


ELLIS, J. 2006. Squatina squatina. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red 
List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org.

MURCH, A. 2008. Chasing Angels – Diving with Angel Sharks in the 

Canary Islands. Shark Diver Magazine. December, 2008. 



Squatina squatina

Text & Illustrations © Shark Trust 2009

Text: Richard Hurst.
Illustrations: Marc Dando.

Shark Trust; 2010. An Illustrated Compendium of Sharks, Skates, Rays 
and Chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic. Part 
2: Sharks.

Any ammendments or corrections, please contact:
The Shark Trust
4 Creykes Court, The Millfields
Plymouth, Devon PL1 3JB

Tel: 01752 672008/672020

Email: enquiries@sharktrust.org

For more ID materials visit www.sharktrust.org/ID.

Registered Company No. 3396164.
Registered Charity No. 1064185