Eastern angel shark (Squatina albipunctata)

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Eastern angel shark on sea bed
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Eastern angel shark fact file

Eastern angel shark description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassChondrichthyes
OrderSquatiniformes
FamilySquatinidae
GenusSquatina (1)

The peculiar-looking eastern angel shark (Squatina albipunctata) resembles a ray more than a shark, due to its largely flattened body, which enables it to lie buried in sediment. The large pectoral and pelvic fins of the eastern angel shark extend out to the side, and also extend along the length of the shark's body. The wing-like shape of these fins gives this species its common name of ‘angel shark’ (2).

The tail of the eastern angel shark bears two small, characteristic dorsal fins, the front one slightly larger than the back. These dorsal fins are set further back on the body than is typical in most other sharks (2).

The eastern angel shark has a broad, blunt snout which bears fleshy barbels, which are used for taste and touch. The eyes are very small, even smaller than the spiracles, and are set on a slightly concave head. This species possesses a small but sharp set of teeth on both the upper and lower jaw (2).

The eastern angel shark’s colouration and markings provide excellent camouflage against the ocean floor. Its upperparts vary in colour from yellow-brown to rich chocolate-brown, and are decorated with brown patches and small white spots with a dark outline. The underside of the body is pale white (2).

Size
Male length: up to 110 cm (1)
Female length: up to 130 cm (1)
Male weight: up to 8 kg (1)
Female weight: up to 20 kg (1)
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Eastern angel shark biology

The eastern angel shark has an unusual and interesting ambush predation strategy. Lying buried in the sediment, it will wait with only its eyes and the top of its head exposed. When prey passes by, the shark lunges forward to grab it. The diet of the eastern angel shark includes octopus, cuttlefish, smaller sharks, skates and rays, and various species of bottom-dwelling and mid-water fish (2).

Male eastern angel sharks reach sexual maturity at a length of about 91 centimetres, while females reach maturity at 107 centimetres. The mating season is from late winter to late summer, and the gestation period lasts 8 to 12 months, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 10 to 15 live young. The eastern angel shark is ovoviviparous, meaning that the eggs develop and hatch inside the female (2).

The lifespan of the eastern angel shark is unknown, but is believed to be longer than 20 years (2).

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Eastern angel shark range

The eastern angel shark occurs in waters off eastern Australia, from Victoria north to Cairns in Queensland (2). It is thought to be more abundant in the southern parts of its range (1).

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Eastern angel shark habitat

The eastern angel shark is found on the seabed of outer continental shelves and upper slopes. It rests on mud, sand, pebbles and rocks, typically at depths of between 92 and 305 metres. Occasionally, however, it may enter waters as shallow as 60 metres (1) (2).

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Eastern angel shark status

The eastern angel shark is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Eastern angel shark threats

The eastern angel shark is particularly susceptible to a commercial fishing method known as trawling, whereby huge nets are dragged across the ocean floor. As the eastern angel shark is a bottom dweller, it often gets caught in the nets as bycatch (1).

Trawling mainly threatens eastern angel shark populations in the southern parts of its range. In recent decades, a 96 percent decline in eastern angel shark catch size has been documented, indicating a decline in the eastern angel shark population. However, populations in the northern parts of the eastern angel shark’s range do not face such threats, as large areas in this region remain un-trawled. When caught, the flesh of the eastern angel shark is sold for consumption (1).

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Eastern angel shark conservation

There are currently no direct conservation measures in place for the eastern angel shark. However, it does occur in some protected areas, and large areas in the northern part of its range are not trawled (1). For example, within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, trawling is only permitted within a very small area (3).

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Find out more

Find out about marine conservation in Australia:

Learn about shark conservation:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Barbels
Fleshy projections near the mouth of some fish.
Bycatch
In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Continental shelf
A region of relatively shallow water, not usually deeper than 200 metres, surrounding each of the continents.
Dorsal fins
The unpaired fins found on the back of the body of fish.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Ovoviviparous
Ovovivipary is a method of reproduction whereby the egg shell is weakly formed and young hatch inside the female; they are nourished by their yolk sac and then ‘born’ live.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Pelvic fins
The pair of fins found on the underside of the body.
Spiracles
In sharks and some other fish, small holes behind the eye through which the fish can take in water while lying on the seabed. Water enters the spiracles and is passed out over the gill openings, bypassing the mouth.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Parker, S.P. (2008) The Encyclopedia of Sharks. Quintet Publishing Limited, London, UK.
  3. Australian Government: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (June, 2011)
    http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/
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Image credit

Eastern angel shark on sea bed  
Eastern angel shark on sea bed

© Becca Saunders / Auscape International

Auscape International
PO Box 1024,
Bowral
NSW
25a76
Australia
Tel: (+61) 2 4885 2245
Fax: (+61) 2 4885 2715
sales@auscape.com.au
http://www.auscape.com.au

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