This month we're showcasing the elusive angel sharks, a family of flattened sharks made up of 23 species...

Angel sharks are perfectly designed for ambush. A large, stocky and flattened body, along with huge pectoral fins enable them to fan out a depression in the seabed. Here they lie and wait, partially covered in sand, for prey to pass by. They remain in a torpid state and are often reluctant to move during the day.

Angel sharks have unusually flexible ‘necks’. Allowing them to raise their heads and trap-like jaw to snap up prey at high speed. Prey includes small bony fishes, crustaceans, squids, gastropods and clams.

Masters of camouflage, their skin is mottled with brown, grey, black, green, and often white spots. This allows them to disappear into the mud or sand undetected. They spend most of their time hiding just below the surface. Their eyes sit prominently on the top of their head (keeping them above the sand). Mostly nocturnal, they hunt at night. And are tipped off to a prey’s presence by the bio-luminescent plankton that follows in the prey’s path.

An incredible adaptation of sharks is their spiracles behind their eyes. These are modified gills that deliver oxygen straight to the brain and allows them to 'breathe' while buried under the sand.

The angel shark family includes:

  • Sawback Angelshark (Squatina aculeata)
  • African Angelshark (Squatina africana)

  • Argentine Angelshark (Squatina argentina)

  • Sand Devil (Squatina dumeril)

  • Angelshark (Squatina squatina)

  • Chilean Angelshark (Squatina armata)

  • Australian Angelshark (Squatina australis)

  • Philippinnes Angelshark (Squatina caillieti)

  • Pacific Angelshark (Squatina californica)

  • Taiwan Angelshark (Squatina formosa)

  • Angular Angelshark (Squatina guggenheim)

  • Japanese Angelshark (Squatina japonica)

  • Indonesian Angelshark (Squatina legnota)

  • Eastern Angelshark (Squatina albipunctata)

  • Clouded Angelshark (Squatina nebulosa)

  • Hidden Angelshark (Squatina occulta)

  • Smoothback Angelshark (Squatina oculata)

  • Western Angelshark (Squatina pseudocellata)

  • Ornate Angelshark (Squatina tergocellata)

  • Ocellated Angelshark (Squatina tergocellatoides)

  • David's Angelshark (Squatina david)

  • Vari's Angelshark (Squatina varii)
  • Small-crested Angelshark (Squatina mapama)

Depending on the species females produce between 1-25 pups per litter. All pups obtain food from a yolk sac before birth. Some species have a 3-year breeding cycle. The number of pups increases with the size of the female.

Valued around the world for their meat, oil, fishmeal and leather they're targeted by fisheries and taken as bycatch in bottom trawls.

Angels sharks are one of the most threatened family of sharks. With over half of all the angel shark species being listed in a threat category on the IUCN Red List.

Related Links:

► Download our Angel Sharks Poster (pdf) - showcasing all 23 species of the angel shark family

► Find out more about our work on Saving Angel Sharks

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section

Banner image © Nuno Vasco Rodrigues