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Angelshark

The Angelshark is a species of shark in the family Squatinidae (known generally also as angel sharks). The angelshark normally poses little danger to humans, though if provoked it is quick to bite. Caught for food since at least Ancient Greece, this shark was often sold on European markets under the name "monkfish". Since the mid-20th century, intense commercial fishing across the angelshark's range have decimated its population via bycatch – it is now locally extinct or nearly so across most of its northern range, and the prospects of the remaining fragmented subpopulations are made more precarious by its slow rate of reproduction. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed this species as Critically Endangered.

DescriptionEdit

One of the largest members of its family, female angelsharks can attain a length of 2.4 m (7.9 ft) and males 1.8 m (5.9 ft); the maximum reported weight is 80 kg (180 lb). This species shares in common with other angel sharks a flattened body and large, wing-like pectoral fins whose anterior lobes are not fused to the head. The head and body are very broad and stocky, with small eyes positioned dorsally and followed by a pair of larger spiracles. There are a pair of unadorned barbels in front of the nares, as well as a smooth or weakly fringed flap. Folds of skin with single triangular lobe are present on the sides of the head. The teeth are small, sharp, and of similar shape in both jaws.

The pectoral and pelvic fins are wide with rounded tips; the two dorsal fins are positioned on the muscular tail behind the pelvic fins. The anal fin is absent, and the caudal fin has a larger lower lobe than upper. The dermal denticles are small, narrow, and pointed, and cover the entire upper and most of the lower body surface. There are patches of small spines on the snout and over the eyes. Small individuals have a row of thorns down the middle of the back. The coloration is gray to reddish or greenish brown above, with many small black and white spots, and white below. Juveniles are more ornately patterned than adults, with pale lines and darker blotches. The dorsal fins have a darker leading margin and lighter trailing margin. Some individuals have a white spot on the back of the "neck".

HabitatEdit

This benthic shark inhabits the continental shelf, preferring soft substrates such as mud or sand, and can be found from near the coast to a depth of 150 m (490 ft). It sometimes enters brackish environments. Northern angelshark sub-populations migrate northward in summer and southward in winter.

FoodEdit

The angelshark is an ambush predator that feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling bony fishes, especially flatfishes, though it also preys on skates and invertebrates. Prey reported taken include the hake Merluccius merluccius, the bream Pagellus erythrinus, grunts in the genus Pomadasys, the flatfishes Bothus spp., Citharus linguatula, and Solea solea, the squid Loligo vulgaris, the cuttlefishes Sepia officinalis and Sepiola spp., and the crabs Medorippe lanataGeryon trispinosusDromia personataGoneplax rhomboides, Liocarcinus corrugatus, and Atelecyclus rotundatus.

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