Top 10 Facts About Wobbegong Sharks by IP Factly
Sharks are some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean and there are actually over 400 species of them, though most of us only know a few. For example, have you ever heard of wobbegong sharks? Now, wobbegong sharks may have a funny name, but they are real. And they might not be as fearsome as great white sharks but they do have some cool tricks up their sleeves. Here are the top 10 facts about wobbegong sharks.
1. Wobbegong means “shaggy beard”.
Wobbegong might sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, but it is a real word. It comes from the language of the Australian Aborigines, or the native people of Australia, and means “shaggy beard”. In Australia, wobbegong sharks are lovingly called “wobbies”.
Now, why on earth would sharks be called “shaggy”? The reason is that wobbegong sharks do look like they have a beard. They have whiskers (called barbels) around their noses, and flaps of skin that look like tiny fins around their mouths and eyes and on the sides of their heads. For this same reason, the scientific name of the family of wobbegong sharks is Orectolobidae, from the Greek words orektos, meaning “stretched out”, and lobos, meaning “lobe”.
2. Wobbegong sharks are also called “carpet sharks”.
Wobbegong sharks have another name — carpet sharks. This is because they are bottom-dwelling sharks, staying on the ocean floor. Their greenish or brownish skin, which is covered in a unique pattern of bold markings, keeps them camouflaged against the sand, hiding them from larger fish and marine mammals who could try to eat them. Unfortunately, sometimes they are so well-hidden that people end up stepping on them, resulting in nasty bites.
3. There are twelve species of wobbegong sharks.
The family of wobbegong sharks includes the following: the spotted wobbegong, the ornate wobbegong, the banded wobbegong, the dwarf spotted wobbegong, the floral banded wobbegong, the Japanese wobbegong, the Indonesian wobbegong, the network wobbegong, the northern wobbegong, the western wobbegong, the tasselled wobbegong and the cobbler wobbegong.
They are mostly found in shallow waters around Australia and Indonesia, with the exception of the Japanese wobbegong, which is found around Japan. They can be found in bays, caves, rocky bottoms and reefs, with some preferring clearer waters than others.
Of these, the largest is the spotted wobbegong, which can grow over 10 feet (3 meters) long but is normally 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) long. The smallest is the floral banded wobbegong, which only reaches a length of up to 2.5 feet (0.8 meters).
4. Wobbegong sharks are lazy.
They are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and hunting at night. This is because they have poor eyesight and rely mostly on their barbels to sense their environment. Even when they hunt, they barely move and when they do, they are sluggish, as if they are dragging their flattened bodies along.
Needless to say, then, wobbegong sharks are not one of those that need to keep moving in order to breathe, like the great white does. Those sharks are known as obligate ram ventilators, and have to ram water into their mouths as they swim, which then goes out through their gills. Wobbegong sharks simply breathe by taking water inside their mouths and pumping it to their gills using the strong muscles inside their cheeks.
5. Wobbegong sharks can “walk”.
On their more active days, wobbegong sharks can move across the ocean floor using their bottom fins, which makes them look just like they are walking. They have even been seen climbing out of the water to go from one tide pool to another. As long as their gills are wet, they can survive the brief trip.
6. Wobbegong sharks hunt by ambush.
Wobbegongs, like most other sharks, are hunters, but since they are quite lazy, instead of actively looking for food or chasing after prey, they wait for prey to come close to them and then attack in ambush. They use their barbels and their fleshy lobes to lure prey such as bottom-dwelling fishes, smaller sharks, crabs, lobsters and even octopuses, and when the poor animal is close enough, they give a quick snap. Now, wobbegong sharks may swim slowly, but when they snap, they can do it in a blink of an eye. They swallow small prey whole or, if the prey is too large, they hold it within their jaws until it dies and then eat it one chunk at a time.
7. Wobbegong sharks have strong jaws and sharp teeth.
Indeed, wobbegong sharks have powerful jaws. They can open their mouths wide to swallow prey almost as big as they are and when they bite, they don’t easily let go. Although their teeth are small, these are sharply pointed and have been known to penetrate through diving suits, causing painful bites.
Yup, wobbegong sharks have bitten before, though none of them have ended with someone dying. A total of twenty-eight unprovoked wobbegong shark attacks have been recorded in the past 450 years, four of which are attributed to the spotted wobbegong.
8. Female wobbegong sharks give birth to pups.
Wobbegong sharks are among the sharks that are ovoviviparous. This means that the young develop in eggs inside the mother’s body, nourished by the egg yolk and not by the food the mother eats. After they hatch, they continue to develop inside the mother’s body — for a total gestation period of 10 to 11 months — and then are born as live young, called pups. The litter size varies per species, from as few as twelve to as many as fifty-three. The pups do not receive any care from their mother at all, and stick together for safety as they find food on their own.
9. Some wobbegong sharks can be kept as pets.
Do you want to keep a shark as a pet? A wobbegong shark is a possibility, though only the smaller species, unless you have a tank as big as a swimming pool. Remember, though, that the wobbegong shark is lazy, so if you want a fish that swims around, you’ll want to look at something else. Most of the time it will just be lying at the bottom of your aquarium.
The good side of having a lazy shark as a pet? You only have to feed it around twice a week. You’ll have to feed it live fish, though, on a stick. Do not try to give the fish using your hand, unless you don’t want to have a hand anymore.
10. Wobbegong sharks are currently not Endangered.
Of the twelve species of wobbegong, only four have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): the spotted wobbegong, the banded wobbegong, the tasselled wobbegong and the ornate wobbegong. All four are currently classified as Near Threatened, which means they still have a large and stable population. Although their meat is tasty and often used to make fish and chips, and their beautiful skin is sometimes used to make leather, they are considered fishes of limited commercial value and are not widely hunted.
Wobbegong Shark Videos.
The Wobbegong shark – extended version by Koalafis
While snorkeling in Gordon’s Bay, Koalafis spotted a Wobbegong shark inside a small cave. He believed it to be a Port Jackson shark at first and didn’t realize it was the much more bitey wobbegong.
Wobbegong sharks of the Raja Ampat by reefwondersdotnet
ANIMA MUNDI – Adventures in Wildlife Photography presents a short video on the Wobbegong sharks of the Raja Ampat, West Papua.