Japanese Angel Shark Ambushing Prey

Shortly after my visit with the hairchin gobies, I found myself headed to Wakayama Prefecture in Japan. I’d never visited before.

The trip was partly to visit a friend, partly to check out the diving, but mostly to avoid getting stuck at home in front of a computer.

Given the somewhat nebulous nature of the excursion, I didn’t have any specific photo subject in mind, a rarity for me. I ended up doing only two dives (two and a half if you count a 20-minute check dive), during which I photographed this:

Squatina japonica ambushing prey
Japanese angelshark ambushing prey (License image)

It is a Japanese angelshark (Squatina japonica) that’s just swallowed a passing fish.

I had hoped to capture the moment when the shark actually grabbed its meal, but as I later learned from reading up on angelsharks, the strike happens in a few hundredths of a second, give or take a handful of milliseconds. Too quickly, in other words, for human reflexes.

All things considered, I think I did well, given the speed and unpredictability of the strike, as well as how long I sat nearly motionless in 16°C water during the winter night.

Of interest, the thrust generated by the shark as it exploded from the sand was such that multiple bristleworms found themselves involuntarily propelled into the water column, as can be seen in the photo.

I imagine that the unexpected interruption to their evening routines most likely left the worms bristling with irritation.

Big thanks to Akagi-san and Sakaguchi-san for getting me to the right place and time to witness this spectacle!