Missing since the 19th century, an ocean predator appears in the net of Chilean fishermen

The Chilean angel shark is still shrouded in mystery

While fishing for bonefish off the Chilean coast, artisanal fishermen accidentally caught something more important in their gillnets. They snatched up a “lost” species. In 1887, a researcher described the Chilean angel shark, a small, flat, ray-like shark that inhabits shallow coastal waters. However, a recent study published in European Journal of Taxonomy (April 25) points out that this description was incomplete and inaccurate, Miami Herald mentioned.

According to the researchers, the author of the study conducted in 1887 provided only a few body measurements, which are insufficient to distinguish this specimen from its relatives. To make matters worse, the collected animal was lost, leaving a huge gap in our scientific understanding of the Chilean angel shark. While bycatch has provided glimpses of this species throughout history, a comprehensive description has remained elusive. Then, as fate would have it, the elusive sharks landed, quite literally, in the hands of fishermen.

After receiving their unexpected reward, the study details how the fishermen froze two whole sharks and the head of a third before transporting them to the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile. There, researchers were thrilled to confirm that they had found two Squatina Armata sharks, also known as Angelote in Spanish and Chilean Angel Shark in English.

The study describes the sharks as reaching just over 3 feet in length and having flattened bodies, giving them a striking resemblance to sharks more than sharks. In addition to their unique appearance, these sharks have “large dorsal spines” — small, sharp, hook-shaped protrusions found on their heads and backs, according to the researchers.

See also  Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British charity worker who was released from Iran, has arrived in the UK

Despite this fortunate encounter, the Chilean angel shark remains shrouded in mystery. Due to limited research and rare sightings, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists it as “Critically Endangered” on the Red List. This rarity mirrors the behavior of other angel sharks, such as the common angel shark. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented, these magnificent creatures are ambush predators. They patiently burrow at the bottom of the sea, waiting for unsuspecting prey such as small fish, crustaceans, molluscs and even cephalopods to swim above their heads before striking.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), these mysterious creatures are “nocturnal bottom dwellers,” spending most of their lives buried within the sand and mud of coastal sediments. The study confirms that understanding and identifying this species is “indispensable” for its conservation. These sharks face significant threats from coastal development, habitat degradation, and overfishing.

“Recent taxonomic studies on angel sharks…with this updated morphological characterization of the Chilean angel shark, questions regarding geographic range, abundance estimates, and true occurrences in landings can be clarified to ultimately inform conservation practices for this critically endangered species,” the researchers said. Other angel sharks are found on the Pacific coast of America. The sharks were caught near Playa Ceremino in northern Chile on the Pacific coast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *