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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Bamboo Shark

“Chiloscyllium punctatum”

The Bamboo Shark has a slender body with an elongated and thick precaudal tail. The mouth is located closer to the eyes than to the rounded tip of the snout. The spiracles are located below and behind the moderately large eyes. Both dorsal fins are approximately of equal size with the origin of the first dorsal fin located opposite the anterior halves of the pelvic fin bases or slightly anterior to the pelvic fin origins. The base of the first dorsal fin of the Bamboo Shark is longer than the second dorsal fin base. These spineless dorsal fins are larger than the pelvic fins and have concave posterior margins and elongated free rear tips. The inter-dorsal space is relatively short. This small tropical shark is commonly found on inshore coral reefs and over sandy and muddy bottom habitats ranging in-depth from 2 to 279 feet. It is a generally solitary animal with small individuals hiding in crevices of the reefs, well camouflaged with their banding pattern. As a nocturnal feeder, this shark becomes more active at night when it excavates the sediments in search of prey. An extremely hardy species, the Bamboo Shark is also often observed in tide pools and can tolerate hypoxia for extended periods of time.

The teeth of Bamboo Sharks are not strongly differentiated in the upper and lower jaws. Each tooth has a medial cusp and weak labial root lobes. The number of tooth rows is 26-35/21-32. The maximum reported size of the Bamboo Shark is 41 inches total length. Adult males reach sexual maturity at 27-30 inches in length, while females mature at 25 inches in length. The pectoral fins are straight with very broad tips. The origin of the anal fin is just posterior to the free rear tip of the second dorsal fin. It is long and low, located just posterior to the caudal fin. The caudal fin has a distinct sub-terminal notch, the ventral lobe is absent. The body lacks a lateral dermal ridge. Predorsal and inter-dorsal ridges are not prominent. Young individuals are distinctly marked with dark transverse bands and scattered dark spots. The adults are light brown and lack any color pattern on the body.  The life expectancy of the Bamboo Shark is approximately 25 years. The Bamboo Shark feeds on benthic organisms and small fishes. One study in Australian waters, found their diet to consist of crabs, polychaete worms, shrimps and small fishes. The Bamboo Shark is oviparous. Paired eggs are released into the benthic environment. Measuring 4.3 x 5.9 inches, the egg cases is elongated and flattened. The embryos feed entirely on the yolk within the egg case until they hatch and become free-swimming. In captivity, it can take up to four months after being released from the female for hatching to occur. The young Bamboo Sharks measure 5-7 inches total length upon hatching. Potential predators of the Bamboo Shark include larger fish such as sharks as well as marine mammals.

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