December Elasmobranch of the Month: Tasselled Wobbegong Shark
Author: Linda Weiss
The Tasselled Webbegong shark belongs to the family of carpet sharks. It has a flat body and head with a wide mouth and broad pelvic and pectoral fins. Both dorsal fins are located on the second half of its body, with the first dorsal fin slightly larger than the second. Large, crescent-shaped spiracles are located behind each eye. A fringe of dangling skin flaps (tassels) run from pectoral fin to pectoral final, wrapping under the mouth, forming a beard-like appearance. The shark’s top coloration is brown to beige with an intricate pattern of light and dark shades and white or creamish rings and dots. The color underneath is white to off-white. This is a small shark whose maximum length is slightly more than 1 meter (4 feet). The jaws of the Tasselled Wobbegong contain smooth-edged, pointed, needle-shaped teeth. The upper jaw holds three rows while the lower jaw contains two rows. Each row consists of between 23-26 teeth.
Habitat and Distribution
This shark is a tropical species that resides on offshore reefs and on the continental shelf. Dwelling near or on the ocean floor, in maximum depths of approximately 40 m (131 feet). Their range in the Western Pacific Ocean, includes Northern Australia, New Guinea and Northern Queensland.
Tasselled Wobbegongs are nocturnal, ambush predators, lying still, camouflaged with the reef. When prey move close by, the shark strikes by sucking in the prey whole. Their prey items consist of fish and invertebrates that live near the bottom of the reef. Some known specific prey are soldierfish, squirrelfish, and sweepers.
Reproduction of the Tasselled Wobbegong is Ovoviviparous. Eggs are fertilized inside the female where they are initially nourished through a yolk sac, then by nutrition-rich uterine fluid. Fully formed pups are birthed live, measuring approximately 20 cm (7.9 inches) in length. Litter sizes are generally comprised of 20 or so pups.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists the Tasselled Wobbegong as Least Concern, with an unknown population trend.
This shark’s natural predators include sea mammals and larger fish, including larger sharks. The commercial fishing industry does not target the Tasselled Wobbegong, though it may become bycatch. Habitat destruction is the larger threat to this shark species.
Photo Credit: Tasselled Wobbegong
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Huveneers, C. & Pillans, R.D. 2015. Eucrossorhinus dasypogon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41873A68623121. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T41873A68623121.en. Downloaded on 04 December 2020.