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

Wobbegong Shark

“Orectolobus maculatus”

The Wobbegong Shark also known as the Carpet Shark, resides in shallow waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. The adult shark can range in length up to 10.5 feet and is known for its flattened head and yellowish-brown or gray blotchy appearance, which allows it to blend into the water often undetected. Wobbegongs also possess distinct whisker appendages and its name is believed to derive from the Australian Aboriginal term for “shaggy beard”. This shark possesses razor-sharp teeth but typically keeps to itself and will not attack humans unless provoked. Wobbegong Sharks are typically found in water varying from 3 to 360 feet deep. The shark lives on ledges and in coral gardens as well as in shipwrecks. It is not unusual for the Wobbegong to live in caves with crayfish. Nocturnal creatures, Wobbegongs often use their whiskers to help nab fish. Also, this shark can blend in to its surroundings such as rocks and the ocean floor preying upon fish that come too close. Usually, the Wobbegong Shark will lay on the bottom of the water for hours and then lift up its mouth which resembles seaweed when other creatures come close to investigate. 

Ambush predators, the Wobbegong uses its long sharp teeth for gripping its prey and will often hold onto its victims until they perish and can be swallowed whole. The diet of the Wobbegong Shark includes smaller fish, crab, octopus, squid, rays and even other small sharks. Wobbegongs mate during the winter and are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young without a placental attachment. A female’s gestation period is typically nine to 11 months. A female may give birth to litters that contain up to as many as 40 pups. Wobbegong Shark pups often emerge two at a time over a 24-hour span. At birth, the young are approximately 8 inches in length and can fend for themselves. The Wobbegong is often served at Fish & Chip restaurants in Australia. The Wobbegong Shark is also fished for its skin because of its unique color and patterns. 

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