What Is An Angel Sharks Diet And Eating Habits? The Angel Sharks are members of the family Squatinidae and they commonly inhabit near the sandy seabed of about 150 meters in depth. Angel Sharks are found on the coast of Northeast Atlantic, particularly in Norway, Morocco and the Canary Islands. As of today’s date, Angel Sharks are considered to be critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an organization that specializes in nurturing the ecosystem and its inhabitants.
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The Biology Of The Angel Sharks
Angel Sharks are living in tropical marine environments in the shallow waters. Their comfort zone is staying and burying themselves in the sandy and muddy environments during the day. Since their color can camouflage in the sand, they used it to hide from their predators and also, to hunt for their prey. Just like any other sandy fish, Angel Sharks are considered to be more active at night.
Angel Sharks have an unusual flattened body and broad pectoral fins that can be likened to a stingray. This type of shark is the only genus in the family Squatinidae. The regular Angel Shark Fish can grow up to 2 meters long, whereas the Pacific Angel Sharks can grow up only up to 1.5 meters long. The posterior part of the angel shark appeared to be more muscular than other sharks. The five-gill slits are located on its back, whereas the pectoral and the pelvic fins were held horizontally. Angel Sharks is also unusual for not having anal fins and its lower lobe of the caudal fin is longer than the upper ones.
Angel Sharks are very strategic when hunting for food, especially when they are using their upper body to camouflage either in the mud or sand. As they wait, they will blend first and snap upwards to capture their prey with trap-like jaws and needle-like teeth. They fed on fish, crustaceans, octopus, squids, and mollusks.
Habitat And Distribution
Generally, these sea creatures were found in the shallow waters of around 328 feet off-coasts and live on ocean floors of around 4,300 feet in depth. They love the warm temperature common in the Pacific Ocean, southern Alaska and Ecuador. Even if they may not be considered to be a threat against humans, once divers provoked or disturbed either its head or tail, then the angelfish would most likely bite the diver and can inflict painful laceration.
Another unique characteristic found in the angelfish is they have their way of breathing, like not pumping the water out from its oropharyngeal cavity. Instead, they will flap their gills under the body to pump up the water during respiration.
Aplacental viviparity is a common mode of shark’s reproduction, in which the embryo will get to develop inside the eggs, which is still inside the shark’s stomach. Inside the stomach, when the baby is developed, no placenta is supported to nourish them. Amazingly, Angel Sharks can reproduce 8 to 13 live offsprings of about 8 inches via aplacental viviparity.
To explain further, the male shark would insert its clasper into the female’s oviduct, to where the male will release its sperms. These sperm will soon fertilize with some of its eggs. The ovoviviparous offspring are fed by the unfertilized egg yolks and the gland secretion in the oviduct walls. Once these offsprings are developed, they would hatch into the oviduct that usually takes place after three months. Thus, the remaining egg yolks and the gland secretion would continue to sustain the pups until they have the opportunity to hatch.
After hatching and leaving the oviduct, the pups are fully developed, can attend to themselves and be independent of their mothers. They are usually living in the sheltered bays where no dangerous predators are waiting for them. Also, they will have access to more sources of food rather than staying in the open ocean.
Commercial Values Of The Angel Sharks
In the late 1980s, Angel Sharks are commonly called the Monkfish, which is a byproduct of commercial gillnetting. In 1977, local fishermen in California developed a market full of Angel Sharks, where they are using them as crab baits.
Annually from that date, there was an estimated total of about 90,000 Angel Sharks caught until in 1991 where Angel Sharks sadly reduced its numbers due to overexploitation. From then on, capturing Angel Sharks are considered illegal and was put under the protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. As of 2010, it is declared that Angel Sharks are critically endangered.
Laws About The Conservation Of Angel Sharks
Since the announcement of being critically endangered, the Zoological Society of London has been monitoring them very closely to see their improving numbers. Until now, Angel Sharks are listed as the number two most threatened shark and ray family in the world. The Zoological Society of London created the Angel Shark Project, where it is focused to collect ecological and population data about Angel Sharks and relay this information to the local communities to raise awareness and to guide them to conserve them instead of capturing them.
When the International Union for Conservation of Nature decided to red-list the Angel Sharks, they were also extremely supportive of the Angel Sharks program all around the world to secure their population across their natural range. In 2016, IUCN held a two angel shark conservation workshop and was coordinated by local NGOs, shark experts, and government officials to develop the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Conservation of Angel Shark Strategy, which primarily and solely envisions to restore the once-robust population and guard their natural sanctuary.
The other program is the Canary Islands Action Plan for Angel Sharks. The Canary Islands were once abundant of these sea creatures, however by abuse and overexploitation, angel sharks became one of the endangered species. This workshop aimed to make a strategic action plan to restore their population and to implement penalties against those who defy the laws.
Multiple organizations have been evaluating the status of their conservation and until now, they could not get out of the IUCN’s red-list. The Spanish Government placed the Angel Sharks in its Wild Species under Special Protection Regime, to intend to fully protect their existence and to implement an outstanding amount of penalty once violated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed the Angel Sharks under the Endangered Species Acts of 1973. Unfortunately, even when many conservation laws were emerging to protect them, still their numbers are not improving.
Fisheries Protection Regulations
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) implemented a zero-total allowable catch in the North Sea expanding to the Northeast Atlantic Ocean in 2009. The acts including all fishing vessels to release Angel Sharks in the open sea, without harming them.
In the Philippines, being rich in marine animals as it has more than 200 species of rays and sharks, have implemented its marine law to conserve them. It is undeniable that the Asian region has high demands for baby sharks especially when it is cooked in vinegar or to make the dumplings. But in 1998, the Fisheries Administrative Order of 193 demands to ban taking, catching, possessing and purchasing of all kinds of sharks and manta rays. However, this was not followed due to lack of discipline and the national strategy for shark protection is still lacking.
Are Angel Sharks Threat To Humans?
For that question, it has to be the other way around. Angel Sharks are never considered a threat and generally, they are not dangerous. However, when they tend to get provoked, they will bite off the divers. Overall, they are perfectly interactive and sometimes, divers can touch and grab them. Their bites are not severe, compared to other sharks. Their biting is just their defense mechanism when they feel threatened.
Other Interesting Facts About Angel Sharks
Many would call them angel sharks because, among all sharks, they seemed to be the gentlest and unaggressive. Their bodies are covered with either black, red, grey, brown, or greenish sandpaper-like skin, while they have white spots and dark splotches scattered around their bodies. Interestingly, their skin coloration can provide camouflage on the sandy and muddy floor. When they camouflage into the sand, they would lay motionless until they ambush their prey.
Angel sharks don’t interact with other sea creatures and tend to enjoy being themselves. To detect their prey, they have a pair of barbels on the snout. Its other purpose is the capability to taste their foods. Also, all sharks need to swim to breathe however, what’s unique about angel sharks is that they can spend a large amount of time lying motionless in the sand while waiting for their prey. They have spiracles on top of their head, which allows them to breathe through the gills.
Angel sharks are gentle sharks that don’t harm people. Since they’ve become extinct, it is our utmost responsibility to restore their population because, to begin with, it is our fault. So if there are programs imposed by the government, let’s support it because they, too, deserve to live.