The Devilish Side of Angel Sharks

posted: 04/11/12
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Angel sharks might sound divine, but this collection of shark species is also known by a variety of less savory names — sand devils, for one. And while they might look like stingrays to the undiscerning eye, these squashed-down bottom dwellers have several important distinctions from those unique creatures. For example, a stingray's pectoral (front) fins are stuck to the sides of its head, but an angel shark's are on the sides of its body, more like a traditional shark. Another feature that helps separate angel sharks from skates and rays is the position of their gills. The gills of an angel shark are on the sides of its head, and a ray's gills are underneath.

However, angel sharks also have one characteristic that sets them apart from most — but by no means all — other shark species. Angel sharks can actively pull water into their gill slits. You may have heard that sharks will drown if they stop swimming, but angel sharks are adept at escaping that fate. They use this ability to help them catch prey, digging themselves down into the sand (where their coloring camouflages them quite nicely) and waiting for something tasty to happen by.

Then, about a tenth of a second is all it takes for these patient yet voracious hunters to devilishly propel themselves up from the sand and sink their pointy teeth into whatever hapless victim has entered the area.

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