How Angel Sharks Work

By: Molly Edmonds

Angel Shark Habitat and Hunting

The angel shark buried at the bottom of the ocean floor
The angel shark buried at the bottom of the ocean floor
David Doubilet/National Geographic/Getty Images

Angel sharks are found all over the world, including both the western and eastern sides of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They're generally not found in the Indian Ocean, except for one southwestern corner. To learn exactly where angel sharks are found, see the sidebar.

Of all the angel sharks, the Pacific angel shark is probably the most studied and best known, although many of these species are likely the same except for location. Even if they make their homes in different parts of the world, in waters ranging from cool to tropical, angel sharks are still seeking out the same parts of the ocean. They're found on the very bottom of the ocean floor, either in shallow areas or at depths of up to 4,265 feet (1,300 meters).


The angel shark buries itself into the sand and mud at the bottom of the ocean floor, with only its eyes poking out. They can lie there for days at a time, waiting for the perfect meal to swim by. When this shark strikes its prey -- normally fish, such as flounder and halibut, crustaceans or mollusks -- its front half rises suddenly to ambush the prey from below. It can attack and capture its prey in a tenth of a second [source: Martin]. Angel sharks seem to favor one hunting spot strongly, but if the local fish figure out where the shark is hiding, then the angel shark will temporarily move several miles away.

While their barbels are constantly working, the most important sense to a hunting angel shark is its sense of sight. In a study, Pacific angel sharks were presented with rubber fish, which didn't contain any of the same olfactory, electrical or vibratory cues of a regular fish. The angel shark struck at virtually all of the targets [source: Martin]. When hunting at night, angel sharks are tipped off to a fish's presence by the bioluminescent plankton in the fish's wake. Some angel sharks are probably exclusively nocturnal.

When provoked, the angel shark turns its sharp bite on humans, but generally, angel sharks have much more to fear in terms of us taking a big bite out of them. Find out about angel shark fishing on the next page.