An Angel shark that is severely in danger of becoming extinct

The Smoothback angelshark (Squatina oculata) is a shark belonging to the family Squatinidae found in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from Morocco to Angola. They are critically endangered. Their population has been depleted in the Mediterranean and are still actively fished off the coast of Africa.


Family: Squatinidae – Angel Sharks

Genus: Squatina 

Species: oculata


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 9.4-10.6 inches. The maximum recorded was 5.2 feet.

Teeth and Jaw: They have expendable necks and trap-like jaws that can quickly snap upwards and hinge shut. They have long, needle-like teeth in the upper and in the lower jaws used for gripping.

Head: There are weakly bifurcated or lobed nasal barbels and weakly fringed anterior nasal flaps. The area between the eyes is concave. The eye-spiracle space is less than 1.5 times the eye length.

Denticles: There are large thorns on the snout and above the eyes.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Smoothback angelshark can be found in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean from Morocco to Angola between 47°N – 29°S, 17°W – 37°E. They can be found on the continental shelves and the upper slopes anywhere from 66-1,640 feet, but mainly stay between 164-328 feet. They are considered demersal, subtropical.

Research suggests that the Gulf of Tunis may be a nursery area.

Diet: They will eat small fish, squid, octopus, crabs and shrimp.

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 Smoothback angelshark is grey-brown with small round white and blackish-looking spots. There is a white nuchal spot. There are symmetrical large dark blotches or spots on the base and the rear tip of the pectoral fins, tail base and under the dorsal fins. There are sometimes symmetrical, white-edged dark ocelli. The dorsal and caudal fin margins are white. The pectoral and pelvic fin margins are dusky. The first dorsal-fin origin is usually well behind the rear tips of pelvic fins. There is no anal fin.

Biology and Reproduction: Biology and reproduction is unknown, however presumably ovoviviparous. Research suggests gestation is around 12 months and litter sizes may be between 5-8 pups.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: The Smoothback angelshark lies buried on the muddy bottom waiting and ready to ambush prey. They can remain still on the bottom for extremely long and extended periods of time.

Smoothback 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 head to pump out water during respiration. Doing so also allows them to be more unnoticeable and prevent detection from unwanted predators.

Smoothback Angelshark Future and Conservation: The Smoothback angelshark is critically endangered. They are actively fished off the coast of Africa, and are bycatch in other locations. Their population in the Mediterranean has been depleted.

Smoothback Angelshark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Smoothback 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.