Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Pacific Angel Shark

Squatina californica


Fun Facts

    The Pacific angel shark superficially looks like a ray, but is a true shark.

    Pacific angel sharks are ambush predators; they conceal themselves on the sea floor and wait for approaching prey.




The Pacific angel shark is a ray-like shark that lives on the sea floor.  They prefer soft, flat bottoms near rocky outcroppings or reefs. Pacific angel sharks occur from Alaska to the Gulf of California and from Ecuador to Chile. The body is gray to brown above with scattered dark spots and white below. With its flattened body and wing-like pectoral fins, the Pacific angel shark superficially resembles a ray. However, distinct from rays, the gill slits are located on the sides of the head rather than underneath, and the pectoral fins do not attach to the side of the head. The two dorsal fins are located far back on the body, and there is no anal fin. Pacific angel sharks can grow up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) long.

Pacific angel sharks feed on bony fishes, such as kelp bass, croaker, flatfish, and sardines, as well as squid. Females give birth to live young with litters ranging from one to 13 young, with an average of six. Birth takes place between March and June following a 10-month gestation period. Both sexes become mature at about 10 years. Pacific angel sharks can have a life span of over 35 years.

A commercial fishery was established for angel sharks in the late 1970s and continued until the mid-1990s when gillnets were banned in nearshore Californian waters. At one point, the Pacific angel shark was the number one species of shark caught in California waters. The Pacific angel shark is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

To learn more about Pacific angel sharks and their relatives, visit the Sharks & Rays Room at the Aquarium.