The tasselled wobbegong is a flat, well-camouflaged shark that sits motionless on the seafloor, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim a bit too close. It is a member of the carpet shark family, named for their seafloor-dwelling behavior. With its blotchy coloration and the highly branched skin flaps that disguise its mouth and head, the tasselled wobbegong perfectly blends in to its surroundings on coral reefs along the northern shore of Australia and throughout the islands of New Guinea and Indonesia.
Using its powerful jaws and needle-like teeth, the tasselled wobbegong eats all sorts of reef fishes and occasionally other sharks. Recently, the tasselled wobbegong gained some international fame, when a scientist photographed an individual eating a Brown-banded Bamboo Shark that was a full 80% of its size. After 30 minutes of observation by that scientist, the tasselled wobbegong had still not ingested the brown-banded bamboo shark past the head.
The tasselled wobbegong is not a particularly large shark and reaches maximum lengths of approximately four feet (1.25 m). Though it is not an aggressive species, individuals have been known to bite people who accidentally get too close (or purposefully tease it), most certainly as a means of self-defense.
The tasselled wobbegong is not fished throughout most of its range, but local populations may be reduced from targeted and accidental fishing. Reef scientists consider habitat loss to be more of a concern to this species than fishing, but current populations are thought to generally be stable.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.