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Here at Ferrebeekeeper we pay far too little attention to cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays, skates, sawfish, and chimaeras. This is partly because I know and love bony fish better (that is a weird sentence to fling out to the world), but, to a larger degree it is because sharks already have people–there are whole networks, hit movies, and even weeks dedicated to them (in fact, my friend’s first book was about a “Shark Detective“). So when longtime reader, K Hindall asked about my favorite angelshark, I was tempted to respond only in the comments and get back to bloviating about pufferfish. But how could I respond to such a clever and thought-provoking question in a short blurb. Clearly a full post is required, even if I have to pull myself away from blogging about the Olympics.

For symbolic (and complex personal) reasons I have been making artworks about flatfish–a taxonomical order which is vastly larger, more diverse, and more widespread than say the familiar order of Primates (particularly when you remove one particular over-represented species of hominid from the mix). Boy you would never know it from artworld pushback I receive about why I concentrate my art on “a single obscure sort of fish”. Sigh…Anyway, K Himdall correctly notes that angelsharks are not flatfish…but are very much flat fish. She then asks what my favorite angelshark is.

There is probably a bearded wobbegong shark in there somewhere, assuming I didn’t mislabel the picture file

She knows me too well! But my my favorite sort of flat sharks are carpet sharks of the family Orectolobidae–which is to say wobbegong sharks! Not only are these are the most beautiful sharks (assuming you can see them at all), they also have the best name of any shark…or pretty much any other creature* They are also flat as pancakes (i.e. not perfectly flat but pretty flat) and exquisitely ornamented with chaotic ocean camouflage and sharkskin gillysuits which help them blend into their habitat.

Angelsharks are similar flattened lurking benthic predators, but they live on open sea floors as well as among rocks and reefs. In our world of habitat loss and rampant overfishing, angelsharks are not doing as well as carpetsharks, because fisheries have been overharvesting the former and selling them as “monkfish”. The angelsharks family Squatinidae has two dozen known species, most of which are endangered or threatened. During the day they bury themselves in the sand and wait for prey and predators both to unknowingly pass over them (although at night they swim about hunting for crustaceans, fish, and mollusks.

It is hard to chose a favorite angelshark because they have amazing names like “sand devil” and “ornate angelshark”. The easy choice for artists Squantinidae gugenheim is, ironically, too cubist for my aesthetic taste. Thus, my favorite angelshark is Squatina nebulosa, “the clouded angelshark”. Not only does its pattern of spots and stipples remind me of wobbegong sharks, but the clouded angelshark lives in the waters around Japan and Taiwan (so maybe I can claim this as an Olympics post after all). I also like how the large “eyespots” of the clouded angelshark make it look like it has a whole bunch of big milky eyes.

Hopefully this answers the question of my favorite angelsharks while also popularizing the noble squantinidae and their ilk. At very least, this first shark post reminds me that I am going to have to write a post about wobbegong sharks at some point…

Do I even have any wobbegong pictures at all, or is this all just gunk sitting on the ocean floor?

*although they might have some competition from nightjars, numbats, quokkas, woolly mammoths, and the humahumanukanukaapuaa (which also needs its own post)

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

July 2021