SM PIER — Yes, it’s a shark. Just don’t expect it to strike fear in the hearts of tourists who line Santa Monica’s coast.
At 2-feet long and with a habit of burying itself under the sand on the ocean floor, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s latest addition — a Pacific angel shark — isn’t exactly the menacing type. The frouforu species name doesn’t help either.
But despite its flounder-like lifestyle, the aquarium’s newest member is attracting crowds, especially during twice weekly feedings which take place Tuesdays and Fridays beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The aquarium received the specimen, a youngish female, in an animal swap with the Catalina Island Marine Institute in May. Santa Monica gave up a sunflower starfish in the deal.
After responding well to conditions at the aquarium, the angel shark was put on display in a tank full of other fish native to the Santa Monica Bay at the end of July.
“It’s a very common specimen in Southern California, but an animal that most people never see,” said Senior Aquarist Jose Bacallao.
Not only are angel sharks “ambush predators” that spend most of their time blending in with their surroundings, they’re also known to dwell in deep waters, beyond the reach of snorkelers and scuba divers.
“It’s a really great educational piece to show another great animal that lives in our bay,” Bacallao said.
On Tuesday, as it lay dormant under a layer of sand in its display tank, relaxing next to a halibut, the angel shark sprang into action the moment a hunk of fish meat came into its view, devouring its snack in a single swallow.
“It was awesome,” said Scott Hufschmidt, 10, of Camarillo.
And, as Scott’s sister, Victoria, 13, pointed out, “really, really fast.”
The shark is believed to be female, but it hasn’t been given a name. Aquarium employees think it’s bad luck to name the tank occupants. Apparently, some fish have been known to quickly demise after receiving anthropomorphic monikers.