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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Tasseled Wobbegong Orectolobus dasypogon

While it lies still, the tasseled wobbegong looks like a seaweed-covered rock, which is exactly its objective.

It is one of a group of flattened, bottom-living sharks that are masters of camouflage. The squashed shape and broad, paired fins are further adaptations to an existence on the ocean floor. This species has a beautiful reticulated pattern of narrow, dark lines against a paler background.

Around its mouth is a fringe of skin flaps that resemble weeds. During the day, it rests unseen under overhangs and ledges on coral reefs. At night, this highly successful ambush predator emerges onto the reef to find a good vantage point from which to snap up passing fish.

There is no escape from the gape of its huge jaws and its needlelike teeth for any fish straying near, as the tasseled wobbegong lunges up and grabs its prey. This species has been reported to bite divers who disturb it. Little is yet known of its biology, and reef destruction and overfishing have reduced its numbers.

Misleading similarity

The tasseled wobbegong looks remarkably similar to the angler, which is an unrelated species of bony fish. Both of these predators, which specialize in ambushing their prey, are flattened, have broad heads, wide mouths disguised by skin flaps, and sharp, pointed teeth. Following a similar lifestyle, these two species have come up with similar answers, an example of convergent evolution.

Tasseled Wobbegongzoom image
Tasseled Wobbegongzoom image
  • Order Orectolobiformes
  • Length At least 4 ft (1.3 m)
  • Weight Not recorded
  • Depth At least 130 ft (40 m)
  • Distribution Southwestern Pacific off northern Australia and Papua New Guinea
Tasseled Wobbegong habitat mapzoom image