Underwater Footage of Rare Angelshark Captured for the First Time

A marine biologist in the U.K. recently captured, for the first time, underwater footage of a rarely seen juvenile Angelshark. The species, which once thrived throughout the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, is now listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and protected by law. Conservationists told local media the exciting footage would better help guide their protection efforts.

Marine biologist Jake Davies captured the footage off the coast of Wales. It was later obtained by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and shared in a news release.

"I've always kept an eye out for Angelsharks during dives, having worked to better understand the species for the last four years," Davies told ZSL.

"I couldn't believe it when I saw the Angelshark, and what was really exciting was that it was a juvenile, just 30 centimeters in length–providing further evidence that the species is giving birth in this area," he continued.

According to ZSL, three different species of angel shark once thrived throughout the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. The juvenile spotted by Davies was an Angelshark (Squatina squatina).

The Angel Shark Project: Wales website explained Angelsharks are "large, flat-bodied sharks that can reach 2.4 m [7.8 feet] in length belonging to the angel shark family." They are often found "submerged" in sandy waters. But fisheries, human disturbance and habitat degradation have all severely impacted the Angelshark population, said Edge of Existence.

The species is critically endangered and is currently protected in the U.K. under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Scottish Elasmobranch Protection Order.

"It was incredible to watch and film it swimming, burying into the sand and then using its camouflage to ambush prey. This footage is far beyond what we thought would be possible to capture in Wales," Davies told ZSL.

Joanna Barker, senior project manager at ZSL said in the release the footage "supports our hypothesis that Angelsharks give birth in waters around Wales."

She added that the video will help guide conservationists in their mission to protect the species.

"This new footage is extremely useful to inform our conservation efforts for this species, especially as Wales hosts one of the last Angelshark populations in the northernmost part of their range," she added.

Ben Wray, a marine ecologist, agreed with Barker, adding that the footage will be used to plan further research.

"[The footage] builds our understanding of Angelshark ecology, including that they use both sand and mixed habitats and that the juveniles prey on gobies," he told ZSL. "We will use this evidence to help plan future research and discover more about this rare species in Wales."

Angelshark
Marine biologist Jake Davies recently captured footage of a rare juvenile Angelshark off the coast of Wales. Stock image of a Japanese Angelshark. Martin Voeller/iStock