Shark that has the appearance of an angel endemic to southwestern Australia

The Ornate angelshark (Squatina tergocellata) is a shark belonging to the family Squatinidae. It is endemic to southwestern Australia. Most of its range is unfished, so its population is quite stable. Like the other members in its family, the Ornate angelshark is an ambush predator.


Family: Squatinidae- Angel Sharks

Genus: Squatina 

Species: tergocellata


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Infraclass– Euselachii

Superorder– Selachimorpha


Common NameAngel Sharks or Angelsharks

Family– Squatinidae

Common Name– Angel Sharks or Angelsharks




Average Size and Length: They are born between 1-1.4 feet. Mature males are between 2.7-3 feet on average. Females are typically between 3.8-4.1 feet. The maximum recorded was 4.6 feet.

Teeth and Jaw: The mouth is very wide and placed terminally. They have expendable necks and trap-like jaws that can rapidly snap upwards and hinge shut. They have long, needle-like teeth in the upper and in the lower jaws used for gripping.

Head: The nasal barbels have strong fringe, and the anterior nasal flaps have strong fringe. The area between the eyes is deeply concave. The eye spiracle space is less than 1.5 times the eye length.

Denticles: They do not have dorsal thorns.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Ornate angelshark is endemic to southwestern Australia (30°S – 35°S, 115°E – 136°E). They can be found on the continental shelf and upper slope on or near the bottom between 427-1,312 feet, but typically stays around 984 feet. They are bathydemersal and prefer temperate seas. The young typically do go shallower.

Diet: They are known to feed on fish and squid.

Ram-Suction Index: They have an RSI more towards the suction end of the scale. They lay flat and still on the bottom, when the time comes, they lung at prey and suck it into their mouths with negative pressure.

Aesthetic Identification: The body of the Ornate angelshark is broad and flat, and has a wing-like appearance due to the large pectoral and pelvic fins. The Ornate angelshark is pale yellow-brown with grey-blue or white spots. There are 3 pairs of large ocelli with dark rings around the centers with a mitotic pattern. The fins are pale with spots or blotches.

Biology and Reproduction: Reproduction is ovoviviparous having 2-9 pups per litter more than likely every 2 years. The gestation period is between 6-12 months.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: The Ornate angelshark is lethargic by day and lies buried still in the mud or in the sand mud with only their eyes distended out, waiting to ambush prey.

Ornate angelsharks have a unique way of breathing compared to most other benthic sharks and fish. They do not pump out water from the oropharyngeal cavity. Instead, they use gill flaps located on the sides of their body to pump out water during respiration. Doing so also allows them to be more unnoticeable and prevent detection from unwanted predators.

There is partial sexual segregation.

They are known to swallow mud to safeguard against prey toxins.

Ornate Angelshark Future and Conservation: Currently their population is stable. Fishing is to a minimum in its range; most of the range is un-trawled. They are occasionally taken as bycatch.

Ornate Angelshark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Ornate angelsharks aren’t dangerous to humans unless provoked. Because of their powerful jaws and sharp teeth, they can inflict injury on anyone or anything that may pose a threat to them. There have been cases of Angel sharks biting divers that have tried to restrain them, approach too close to the head, corner them, or grab their tails.