Ornate Wobbegong

The ornate wobbegong is a nocturnal carpet shark endemic to Australian waters. It is sometimes referred to as the banded wobbegong, but the Gulf wobbegong also shares that name.

Ornate Wobbegong
Ornate Wobbegong, image credit – Peter HalaszCC 20

Ornate Wobbegong Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Chondrichthyes
Order Orectolobiformes
Family Orectolobidae
Genus Orectolobus
Scientific Name O. ornatus

Description

These wobbegongs are 3.9 ft long and are dorsally golden brown, with a few blue-gray areas. When looked at from below, they are a much lighter yellowish-green. Like other wobbegongs, they have dermal flaps on their body.

Ornate wobbegongs are often confused with the similar-looking Gulf and spotted wobbegongs. However, experts use a few differences to tell them apart. For instance, the Gulf wobbegong is noticeably larger than the ornate wobbegong. The ornate wobbegong also lacks the distinct O-shaped spots seen in the spotted wobbegong.

This shark also has markings with black edges on its back, but these are more prominent in juveniles than adults, fading away as they age.

Where do they live

Ornate wobbegongs live in the shallow waters off the coasts of eastern Australia. There are unverified reports of this shark appearing in Japan, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

It prefers tropical waters no deep than 330 ft and is commonly seen around bays, reefs, or among the algae on the ocean floor.

Behavior

Hunting

Studies indicate that 86.5% of this shark’s diet consists of fish like moray eels, parore, or snappers, and the remaining 13.5% consists of cephalopods.

Due to its sluggish behavior, it is mainly an ambush predator. It waits for a potential victim to swim by, attracts them by waving its dermal flaps, then snaps it up in their jaws.

Reproductive

Female sharks give live birth to a litter of up to 12 pups after a gestation period of almost a year.

Initially, the juveniles are 7.9 inches and become sexually mature at 2.6 ft.

Adaptations

Their unique mix of colors and patterns provides excellent camouflage, though this loses its effectiveness as the shark ages.

Interactions with humans

While not hostile towards humans, the ornate wobbegong will deliver a painful bite if stepped on or disturbed. Though sometimes captured as bycatch, its population remains stable, leading to the IUCN classifying it as “Least Concern” or “LC”.

Sources

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