Tasselled Wobbegong Shark

Tasselled wobbegong (eucrossorhinus dasypogon) sitting on a rock on the ocean floor, Indonesia

 Dave Fleetham/Perspectives/Getty Images

The tasselled wobbegong shark is one of the most extraordinary looking shark species. These animals, sometimes referred to as carpet sharks, have distinctive, branched lobes extending from their heads and a flattened appearance. Although these sharks were first described in 1867, they remain mysterious, as they are not well-known.

Tasselled Wobbegong Shark Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Chondrichthyes
  • Subclass: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Orectolobiformes
  • Family: Orectolobidae
  • Genus: Eucrossorhinus
  • Species: dasypogon

Identification and Characteristics

The genus Eucrossorhinus comes from the Greek words eu ("good"), krossoi ("tassel") and rhinos ("nose"). These sharks have 24 to 26 pairs of highly branched dermal lobes that extend from the front of the shark's head to its pectoral fins. It also has branched nasal barbels on its head. This shark has patterns of dark lines over lighter skin, with dark spots and saddle patches. 

Like other wobbegong sharks, tasselled wobbegongs have large heads and mouths, flattened bodies and a spotted appearance. They are usually thought to grow to a maximum size of about 4 feet in length, although a questionable report estimated one tasselled wobbegong at 12 feet. These sharks have three rows of sharp, fang-like teeth in their upper jaw and two rows of teeth in their lower jaw.

Reproduction

The tasselled wobbegong shark is ovoviviparous, which means that the female's eggs develop within her body. During this process, the young get their nourishment in the womb from the egg yolk. Pups are about 7 to 8 inches long when born.

Habitat and Conservation

Tasselled wobbegong sharks live in tropical waters in the southwest Pacific Ocean off Indonesia, Australia, and New Guinea. They prefer shallow waters near coral reefs, in water depths of about 6 to 131 feet.

Not much is known about this species, and at one point, their populations appeared to be declining, leading to their listing as near threatened. As with all marine animals, threats include damage to and loss of their coral reef habitat and overfishing. Because of their beautiful coloration and interesting appearance, these sharks are sometimes kept in aquariums. Even so, the tasselled wobbegong is most recently listed under least concern.

Feeding

This species feeds at night upon benthic (bottom) fish and invertebrates. During the day, tasselled wobbegong sharks rest in sheltered areas, such as in caves and under ledges. Their mouths are so large that they have even been seen swallowing other sharks whole. This shark can feed on other fish that share its caves.

Aggression

Wobbegong sharks are not generally considered threatening to humans. However, their ability to camouflage with their environment, combined with sharp teeth, can result in a painful bite if you come across one of these sharks.

Resources and Further Reading