information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Angel Shark (Squatina squatina)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



With its flat body, broad trunk and large, very high pectoral fins, Squatina squatina resembles a large ray more than a shark. Its skin is grey to reddish or greenish-brown and is scattered with small white spots and blackish dots. The dorsal fins have a dark leading edge and a pale trailing edge. Whisker-like nasal barbels project from near the nostrils. The monkfish, or angelfish as it is sometimes known, has large, round eyes with vertical slit pupils. It can grow up to 1.8 m in length and 80 kg in weight.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Expected distribution all around the offshore coast of Ireland and Britain as far north as the Shetland Isles and as far south as southern Ireland.

Global distribution



Found on the continental shelves from close inshore to at least 150 m depth. During day time, found almost buried in a mud or sandy bottom often with hardly more than its eyes protruding. Will often be seen swimming off the bottom at night time.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Flat, ray-like body, broad trunk and large, high pectoral fins.
  • Grey to reddish or greenish-brown with white spots and blackish dots.
  • Up to 1.8 m in length.
  • Nasal barbels and large round eyes.
  • No ocelli on body.

Additional information

Young angel sharks may also have white net-like markings and large, dark blotches, whilst adults are plainer (Compagno, 1984).

Listed by

Further information sources

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  1. Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsies, 125, 1-249

  2. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  5. OBIS,  2018. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2018-08-16

  6. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Squatina squatina Angel Shark. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 16-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 25/03/2008