Author: Ayres, 1859
An angelshark with simple, conical nasal barbels and weakly fringed anterior nasal flaps, dermal flaps on sides of head without angular lobes, large eyes with interspace between them and spiracles less than 1.5 times eye diameter, fairly broad and angular pectoral fins, and no ocelli on body.
Anterior nasal barbels simple and with a spatulate tip; posterior margin of anterior nasal flaps between nasal barbels and tips weakly fringed; distance from eye to spiracle less than 1.5 times eye diameter; dermal folds on sides of head without triangular lobes. Free rear tips of pectoral fins narrowly subangular. Small spines present on midline of back and tail from head to dorsal fins and between the fin bases; moderate-sized spines present on snout and above eyes. Colour: no ocelli on body.
Eastern Pacific: Southeastern Alaska to Gulf of California; Ecuador to southern Chile (armata).
Habitat and Biology:
A cold to warm-temperate, continental, littoral bottom shark, common to abundant in water from 3 to 46 m deep off California, but down to 183 m in the Gulf of California. It is sluggish and relatively inactive, and lies buried in sand or mud with its eyes and back exposed; its sandy, flecked, mottled colour blends well with the substrate. The Pacific angelshark is often observed around rocks, the head of submarine canyons, and sometimes near kelp forests. It is extremely abundant off the California Channel Islands. Ovoviviparous, size of litters of 10?
Feeds on bottom and epibenthic fishes, including croakers and California halibut, and squids. This is an ambush predator, like others of the family, and can quickly shoot out its jaws to grab its prey. Although not a great danger to people, this angelshark should be treated with considerable respect, because of its powerful jaws and needlesharp if small teeth. It can whip up its head and snap very quickly when touched, provoked, harassed, or speared, and can inflict painful lacerations.
Maximum total length about 152 cm, males maturing at about 75 to 80 cm and reaching at least 114 cm; mature females 86 to over 108 cm; size at birth between 21 and 26 cm.
Interest to Fisheries:
This species has recently (1980-1981) become the subject of an expanding gillnet fishery off southern California, supplying high-priced fresh or fresh-frozen meat for human consumption. Skindivers and sportsfishers often hook spear, or even grab this species. In the Gulf of California, this or a closely related species is or has been taken as a byeatch of the shrimp bottom-trawl fishery, and processed along with other fishes for fishmeal. Off Peru, 205 metric tons of this species (if not distinct from S. armata) was taken in fisheries in 1978.
Kato, Springerand Wagner (1967) synonymized the southern Angelote, Squatina armata, with this species, and this is tentatively followed here pending contrary information. S.P. Applegate (pers. comm., 1982) indicates that the Gulf of California angelshark may be a separate species from S. californica which, if correct, would reopen the question of whether the southern hemisphere Angelote is properly synonymized here.
Holotype: ?. Type Locality: San Francisco, California.