Pacific Angel Sharks

image description

Fast Facts:

·     Named for their flattened bodies and large, wing-like pectoral fins

·     More closely resemble rays and skates than sharks in appearance

·     Ambush predators; also known as lie-and-wait predators

·     Ferociously fast; angel sharks can strike within a tenth of a second

·     Commonly found off the California coast

Dive Deeper:

Pacific angel sharks (Squatina californica) are formidable predators, earning them the nickname “sand devils.” They can lie still in the sand for days without moving while waiting for prey to swim by. Angel sharks move with phenomenal speed, and can strike within a tenth of a second.

Angel sharks also use their sight to their advantage when hunting. With their eyes positioned on top of their heads, they are provided with a wide field of vision, giving them an ideal vantage point for detecting prey. When these sharks strike, they snap their heads up nearly 90 degrees to snatch their next meal.

Pacific angel sharks are commonly found off the California coast in fairly shallow waters, about 30-60 feet deep on average, spending their time on the sandy bottom of the ocean. Their greyish colored skin is scattered with small black and white spots–ideal for staying camouflaged along the murky ocean floor. These nocturnal creatures typically grow to be about five feet long as adults.


Angel sharks were in big demand for their meat in the 1980s, causing overfishing of the species. In the early 1990s, the situation began to reverse thanks to a voter-approved ban, allowing them to slowly repopulate. Today, the biggest remaining threat to these sharks is being caught as a result of bycatch.

Did you know?

Biologists at Aquarium of the Bay got a unique opportunity when a litter of angel shark pups were born in the Aquarium’s main tunnel exhibit in 2009. Aquarium of the Bay is the first institution to successfully breed healthy angel shark pups on site. Aquarium of the Bay biologists have been closely monitoring and studying the growth of these sharks behind-the-scenes for the past few years. Six years after their birth, the Aquarium reached another milestone when the sharks were deemed large enough to re-enter the Nearshore Tunnel where they were born, marking the first time Aquarium of the Bay has had this species on exhibit since their birth.

Our angel sharks were featured on Discovery Channel's Shark Week 2015 video page, featuring Aquarium of the Bay's our very own shark biologist, Michael Grassmann. 

Find out more about angel sharks at Aquarium of the Bay >

Ready to meet our Pacific Angel Sharks? Buy your tickets now!