With its flattened body and wing-like pectoral fins, the Pacific angelshark superficially resembles a ray (Batoidea). Unlike in rays, its five pairs of gill slits are located on the sides of the head rather than underneath, and the expanded anterior lobes of its pectoral fins are separate rather than fused to the head. The eyes are located on top of the head, with the spiracles behind. There are folds of skin without triangular lobes on the sides of head. The mouth is very wide and placed terminally (at the front of the snout); a pair of cone-shaped barbels with spoon-like tips are located above. There are 9 tooth rows on either side of the upper jaw and 10 tooth rows on either side of the lower jaw, with toothless gaps at the middle of both jaws. Each tooth has a broad base and a single narrow, smooth-edged cusp.
The pectoral and pelvic fins are broad and angular with pointed tips. The two dorsal fins are located far back on the body, and there is no anal fin. The lower lobe of the caudal fin is larger than the upper. A row of small thorns runs down the middle of the back and tail; thorns are also present on the snout and over the eyes. As the shark ages, the thorns decrease in size and may disappear. The dorsal coloration is gray, brown, or reddish brown with scattered dark markings: large blotches surrounded by a ring of tiny spots in adults, and pairs of ocelli in juveniles. The underside is white, extending to the margins of the pectoral and pelvic fins.
This bottom-dwelling shark prefers habitats with soft, flat bottoms close to shore, such as estuaries and bays, and are often found near rocky reefs, submarine canyons, and kelp forests.
A sedentary ambush predator, the Pacific angelshark feeds mainly on bony fishes, including kelp bass, croakers, flatfishes, damselfishes, mackerels, and sardines. During the winter and early spring, spawning squid are abundant and become the primary source of food. In the southern Gulf of California, the most important prey species are, in descending order, the mackerel Decapterus macrosoma, the toadfish Porichthys analis, the lizardfish Synodus evermann, the soldierfish Myripristis leiognathus, and the shrimp Sicyonia penicillata. At Catalina Island, this species feeds mainly on the blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) and the queenfish (Seriphus politus). Adults and juveniles have similar diets.