Wobbegong shark generally includes carpet sharks from the Orectolobidae family. And, 12 species make up this group.
Most people believe the name Wobbegong to have originated from an Aboriginal language of Australia. Thus, it means “shaggy beard”. This refers to the extended growths seen around the shark’s mouth.
Where to Find Wobbegongs
The Wobbegong shark species are natives of Australia and Indonesia. They prefer shallow tropical and temperate waters in the East Indian Ocean and West Pacific Ocean.
Although, one among the 12 identified species comes from Japan which is far North. This species is the Orectolobus japonicus – the Japanese wobbegong.
General Description of the Wobbegong Sharks
This species of sharks usually have bold markings on their body. And, they appear like a symmetrical pattern just in the form of a carpet.
Hence, the reason wobbegong sharks belong to the “Carpet shark” group. More so, this striking pattern serves as a true camouflage.
Another thing is the shark’s beard. These are more like small whiskers that look like weeds. And, they surround the jaw of the wobbegong.
These whiskers typically act as sensory barbs while also completing the strange color body pattern camouflage.
The teeth of the wobbegongs appear small but quite sharp. As such, can result in severe injury when they bite.
Most species of the wobbegong grow to a maximum length of 49.2 inches (125 cm). However, there are also very large species that can grow up to 117.6 inches (300 cm).
These larger species include the banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei) and spotted wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus).
The Wobbegong sharks prefer to lie low at the bottom of their dwelling places. They are not among the active swimming shark species. Hence, they spend the majority of their time on the seafloor resting.
These shark species are mostly nocturnal. Thus, more active in the dark.
They are quite aggressive and likely to attack when one goes too close to it. However, if nothing goes close to these harks, they will stay calm in their resting position.
Wobbegongs usually hang on when they bite. And, most times very difficult to detach.
Most at times, these shark species will hide blending in with the rocky environment.
The Wobbegong sharks are opportunistic ambush predators. They only catch preys that did not notice their presence and get too close.
They mostly prey on smaller fish species that are bottom-dwellers.
Wobbegongs in the Wild and Humans
There are several records of the wobbegongs attacking swimmers, divers, surfers, and snorkelers. These cases include especially people who go close to the shark.
However, there are records of wobbegongs attacking humans even while unprovoked. The International Shark Attack File and Australian Shark Attack File contains records of such events.
Although, none of the events recorded was fatal.
Economic Value of Wobbegongs
Apart from participating in the aquarium trade, the skin can be used in the making of leather.
Also, the flesh can play the fish part in fish and chips. Although, other shark species also participate in this. Sharks flesh is known as a flake.
The 12 Species of Wobbegong Sharks
This list contains the 12 known species of wobbegong sharks in the 3 genera they occur. Thus:
- Orectolobus japonicus – Japanese wobbegong
- Orectolobus maculatus – Spotted wobbegong
- Orectolobus ornatus – Ornate wobbegong
- Orectolobus wardi – Northern wobbegong
- Orectolobus halei – Banded wobbegong or Gulf wobbegong
- Orectolobus hutchinsi – Western wobbegong
- Orectolobus floridus – Floral banded wobbegong
- Orectolobus parvimaculatus – Dwarf spotted wobbegong
- Orectolobus reticulatus – Network wobbegong
- Orectolobus leptolineatus – Indonesian wobbegong
- Eucrossorhinus dasypogon – Tasselled wobbegong
- Sutorectus tentaculus – Cobbler wobbegong
The Wobbegong Shark as Aquarium Pet
The appropriate size wobbegong species for home aquaria include the Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) and Ward’s wobbegong (Orectolobus wardi).
These wobbegong species are relatively small-sized and sluggish. As a result, they can habit within the limited space of a home aquarium.
However, these are not the only species you will find in the aquarium trade. Of course, the larger species also come to market as wobbegongs. However, you must watch out for what you want to purchase.
The wobbegong species will likely prey on tank mates not minding the size.
These shark species are not active. And, this is the reason some aquarists give when they do not go for them. Especially, those who prefer more active sharks.
Wobbegongs have a slow metabolism. Thus, they do not require frequent feeding. At least twice a week is okay for most of them.
When underfed, the dorsal musculature becomes atrophied. Hence, look out for this and feed more.
Tasselled Wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon)
We are going to discuss the tasselled wobbegong in detail because of its popularity in the aquarium trade.
As such, if you are keeping a wobbegong as an aquarium pet, it is likely to be the tasselled wobbegong.
Species: E. dasypogon
Binomial Nomenclature: Eucrossorhinus dasypogon
The original description of the tasselled wobbegong is that of Pieter Bleeker (1867) a Dutch ichthyologist. The Neerlandaises des Sciences Exactes et Naturelles recorded this description.
He based his description on two specimens from Indonesia. One recovered off Aru and the other off Waigeo.
Pieter gave these species the name dasypogon. He coined it from Greek words dasy meaning “hairy” and pogon meaning “beard”.
Also, he placed this species in the genus Crossorhinus which is synonymous to Orectolobus.
However, Charles Tate Regan formed a new genus for this species which is the Eucrossorhinus. He coined this from Greek words eu meaning “good”, krossoi meaning “tassel”, and rhinos meaning “nose”.
Regan initially separated Eucrossorhinus from Orectolobus through the spacing between the 4th and 5th gill-slits. Afterward, he reconsidered this and made Eucrossorhinus a synonym of Orectolobus.
As a result, Authors of later times either placed the tasselled wobbegong in its separate genus or in Orectolobus
The Tasselled Wobbegong has other common names “Bearded wobbegong” and “Ogilby’s wobbegong”.
This shark species is the only member of the genus Eucrossorhinus. It is among the carpet shark groups. And, belong to the Orectolobidae family.
Naturally, you can find this species inhabiting shallow coral reefs of New Guinea and northern Australia. And, also other adjacent islands.
The tasselled wobbegong has a wide and flat body. And, can grow up to 49 inches (124 cm) in length.
The trait that differentiates this species mostly is the existence of branching dermal lobes. This goes around its head further extending toward the chin.
With the fringe and its strange color pattern consisting of crisscrossing lines and small blotches, tasselled wobbegong can camouflage in its environment. Thus, blending in with the reef structures.
During the daytime, tasselled wobbegongs tend to hide inside caves. Or, under ledges, while curling its tail.
They may prefer to remain in a favorite spot resting. While also ambushing other fishes and invertebrates that comes close.
Usually, this shark species will continue to wave its tail trying to mimic smaller fishes. The goal of this behavior is to lure in prey.
During the night time, the tasselled wobbegongs will become more active. Thus, they will actively hunt for food.
The IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature listed this species as Least Concern.
The only threat of this species comes from habitat degradation and fishing. Especially, outside of Australia.
Physical Characteristics of the Tasselled Wobbegong Sharks
The body of tasselled wobbegongs is relatively flattened and very wide.
Even the head is wider when compared to the length.
This shark species has a complex color combination. Hence, the dorsal side has a color pattern resembling a mosaic.
It consists of many small and dark blotches and lines. More so, this may include darker bands. Meanwhile, the background color is a somewhat yellow-brown or grayish color.
This color pattern reaches toward the tail underside. Also, it is visible along the margins of the pelvic fin and ventral pectoral fin.
Other than the described, the ventral side of this shark is white in color.
The snout consists of a peculiar kind of branching lobes. This fringe of lobes run from the tip of the snout toward the beginning of the pectoral fins.
Also, around the chin is the “beard”. Hence, the reason you can call it Bearded wobbegong.
Around the nostrils are barbels (whisker-like sensory organs). The Tasselled wobbegong’s barbels are long and branching.
Also, there are grooves around the nostrils that connects them to the mouth.
Along the median of the lower jaw furrows. These furrows extend from the corners of the mouth.
Above the eyes of the tasselled wobbegong are tubercles that are not anywhere else.
Just behind the eyes, you will find large spiracles.
The eye position is almost at the point where the head ends. That is to say, the eyes are recessed from the starting the shark’s mouth.
There are about 23 to 26 upper tooth rows. While the lower part contains 19 tooth rows.
There is a slender cusp that is pointed in each tooth.
The two lower rows and three upper rows of symphysial teeth look like fangs and longer.
The tasselled wobbegong has 5 pairs of short gill slits.
The tasselled wobbegong has a round and large pectoral and pelvic fins.
Its dorsal fins have a rather short base and are quite tall in appearance. But, the first one originating over the second quarter of the bases of the pelvic fin is noticeably larger.
After the pelvic fin, the shark’s body sharply tapers toward the short caudal peduncle.
The anal fin of the tasselled wobbegong usually grows about half its size. And, it has its origin just behind the middle point of the latter dorsal fin.
The shark has a short caudal fin. Although with only an upper lobe with a strong ventral notch close to the tip.
The Survival Adaptations of the Tasselled Wobbegongs
Adaptations for Common Activities
The tasselled wobbegong is a solitary species. As a result, it prefers to spend most of its day hiding inside caves or under ledges.
It will choose several spots where it will rest repeatedly. Usually, lying motionless.
This shark species swims quite slower than other family members.
Its complex body coloration and unusual branching dermal fringe make perfect the shark’s camouflage.
The mouth of the tasselled wobbegongs is very capacious. As such, it makes possible the swallowing of sizeable prey.
This shark species feeds during the day through the opportunistic ambushing of prey. In other words, it lies in wait of any prey that will approach it unknowingly.
The tasselled wobbegong lies motionless as tiny fishes and crustaceans settle upon its head. This will attract larger fishes that the shark will prey on.
When observed, the tasselled wobbegong engages actively in luring. Hence, when this species perceives the presence of prey, it slowly waves its tail.
Of course, the prey will believe it to be a smaller fish since the shark’s caudal fin looks like a small fish. More so, at the base is a dark eyespot to complete the camouflage.
Also, this shark species rests while elevating its head. By so doing, it will have an attacking advantage over any prey it could lure.
The food of this shark species includes bony and cartilaginous fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans.
Others include schooling nocturnal fishes which the shark preys upon. For example, there are soldierfishes, squirrelfishes, and sweepers.
These fishes usually shelter in caves. As such, they might enter the same cave as tasselled wobbegong. Thereby, turning into prey for the shark.
The Tasselled Wobbegongs and Parasites
A common parasite of the tasselled wobbegong is the tapeworm Parachristianella monomegacantha.
On observation, the cleaner shrimp (Stenopus hispidus and Leander urocaridella) and Bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) attend to this species.
The tasseled wobbegong is aplacental viviparous. That is to say, these shark species give birth to the young alive. Although, embryos developing inside the female are sustained by yolk.
Mating involves the male shark inserting his claspers in the cloaca of the female. Thus, releasing sperm which fertilizes the egg.
The newly born pups measure up to 7.9 inches (20 cm).
The Tasselled Wobbegongs and Humans
The tasselled wobbegong is the most aggressive of other wobbegongs. Certainly, there are several cases of this shark species attacking humans unprovoked.
Although, as an ecotourism attraction, divers have approached the tasselled wobbegong without incident.
The shark has a poor vision. Therefore, humans should be careful with this shark species. People should avoid startling the shark. Otherwise, they may attack thinking it’s prey.
You will occasionally find the tasselled wobbegong in the aquarium trade. Of course, it is the best among its family to adapt to captivity.
The Tasselled Wobbegong Aquarium Care Sheet
- Max. Size: 49 inches (124 cm)
- Size of Tank Required: 135 gallons (510 liters) and above.
- Suitable Tankmates: Not a community shark species. Any tank mate will feel threatened.
- Optimal Tank Temperature: 72 to 82 F.
- Water Ph: 8.1 to 8.4
- Water Type: Marine water (Saltwater)
Things to Watch Out For While Keeping a Tasselled Wobbegong
Tank Growth Size
At birth, expect your pet shark to be around 7.9 inches (20 cm) in length.
As an adult shark, it will grow to a maximum length of about 49 inches (124 cm).
A tank of about 135 gallons can comfortably house your tasselled wobbegong.
Since they are not the active species, they wouldn’t move around much. Instead, they will rest most of the time.
However, one rule about tank sizes is “the bigger the better”
Add enough aquascape to make your pet shark feel safe and comfortable.
Add safe caves and ledges to the aquarium. This will make your pet shark feel safe. Of course, its preferred resting spots will be inside the caves or under the ledges. Especially, during daylight.
Also, add some aquarium plants into the tank.
Make sure your reef structure is solid enough. Else, you may have it come crashing on top of your pet shark.
The tasselled wobbegong prefers to stay in solitude. More so, it will attack any tankmate that comes close to it no matter the size.
If you plan on keeping two of these species, get a very large tank. Of course, each will choose a favorite resting position it will use often.
Feed your tasselled wobbegong crustaceans and cephalopods. Also, add occasional prey materials as sweepers, squirrelfishes, and soldierfishes.
Feeding might only need to take place twice in a week due to the shark’s slow metabolism.
Never forget so quickly that the tasselled wobbegong is quite aggressive. Therefore, keeping it as an aquarium pet requires extra caution.
Do not use your hand to feed the shark directly. Instead, use a long stick with the food material at one end. Else, you might be attracting a nasty bite.
Never forget that this is a marine water shark species. As such, avoid placing it in freshwater.
Northern Wobbegong (Orectolobus wardi)
This is another shark species from the wobbegong family. It can be successfully kept in captivity.
Usually, you find this shark species in nature in the western Pacific Ocean around Australia.
The Northern wobbegong grows to a maximum length of 30 inches. Hence, it can be kept in a limited tank of about 135 gallons.
If you own this species, use the same care sheet as the tasselled wobbegong.
This shark species is not much of economic importance. Although, the skin can be used in the making of leather.
And considering the law on fish collection where it is found in nature, The IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature listed this species as Least Concern.
Japanese Wobbegong (Orectolobus Japonicus)
This is another quite popular species of wobbegongs. Of course, this is due to its odd nature.
The Japanese wobbegong is a native of Northwest Pacific, around Japan, China, and Korea. They are also bottom-dwellers and prefer resting in rocks and coral reefs.
As a wobbegong, this shark species is nocturnal as well as ambush predators. They make use of their body camouflage to get their prey.
The Japanese wobbegong is weak at swimming. And, they can use their paired fins to walk the bottom of their habitat. Sometimes, they may even come out of the water as they walk between the tidal pool.
Japanese Wobbegong in Captivity
There has been no report of successful breeding of this shark species in home aquaria. However, they have bred successfully in public aquaria.
The IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature listed this species as Data Deficient in their red list. In other words, not much is known about its life history and population.
But then, we know that people catch them for food. And, also their skin used for leather.
On this page are the necessary things you need to about wobbegong shark species. Therefore, if you plan on keeping a wobbegong shark as an aquarium pet, you need to keep this page handy.
Also, try to learn about other suitable aquarium shark species before choosing the wobbegong as your best.
Happy Shark Keeping!