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Island of the Sharks
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Order

Family

Species
Orectolobiformes
Carpetsharks
Like the bullsharks, this 7-family, 33-species group of sharks features piglike snouts and short mouths that, in most species, connect by grooves to the nostrils. Their nostrils boast unique barbels on their inside edges. Carpetsharks have anal fins, but no spines on the two dorsal fins.

PARASCYLLIIDAE
Collared carpetsharks
Appearance: These attractively colored sharks have narrow heads and slender bodies and tails. They have color patterns of dark and light spots and saddle markings. The anal fin is partly in front of the second dorsal fin and well ahead of the short caudal fin.

Varied carpetshark Parascyllium variolatum
Varied carpetshark


Size: They range in size from 13.6 to 38.8 in.

Habitat: Moderate depths on continental and insular shelves, from close inshore to 600 ft.

Distribution: The western Pacific Ocean. Four species occur off southern Australia and three off the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and Japan.

Diet: Probably includes invertebrates and fishes.

Shark bite: Found on muddy, sandy, or rocky bottoms, collared carpetsharks can change color to match the seafloor type.


Six species


BRACHAELURIDAE
Blind sharks
Appearance: Broad heads and moderately stout bodies and tails. The anal fin is behind the second dorsal fin and just in front of the short caudal fin. They have small light spots.

Blind shark Brachaelurus waddi
Blind shark


Size: Maximum length is four ft.

Habitat: Inshore reef-dwellers from the intertidal to depths of 360 ft.

Distribution: Temperate and tropical waters of Australia.

Diet: Small fishes, crabs, shrimps, cuttlefish, and sea anemones.

Shark bite: The name "blind shark" comes from one of this family's species, which closes its eyelids when removed from water.


Two species


ORECTOLOBIDAE
Wobbegongs
Appearance: Large, flattened, broad-bodied sharks with short tails. The anal fin is behind the second dorsal fin and just in front of the caudal fin. They have strongly protrusible jaws and enlarged impaling teeth. Their cryptic coloration of spots, blotches, lines, and saddles and the unique lobes of skin on the sides of the head combine to camouflage them on the sea bottom.

Spotted wobbegong Orectolobus maculatus
Spotted wobbegong


Size: The longest reaches about 12 ft, but most are smaller.

Habitat: On rocky and coral reefs and on the sandy bottom, from the intertidal to a depth of at least 360 ft.

Distribution: Mostly off Australia and Papua New Guinea. Two species also occur off Japan and one species is confined to the western north Pacific.

Diet: Bottom fishes, octopuses, crabs, and lobsters.

Shark bite: Divers must be careful of stepping on or near wobbegongs, which are well-camouflaged and have been known to bite in self defense or by mistaking a human foot for prey.


Six species


HEMISCYLLIIDAE
Longtailed Carpetshark
Appearance: Plain to strikingly patterned sharks with narrow heads, moderately stout bodies and elongated, slender tails. The anal fin is formed as a low rounded keel well behind the second dorsal fin and just in front of the short caudal fin.

Whitespotted bambooshark Chiloscyllium plagiosum
Whitespotted bambooshark


Size: Maximum length is about 3.3 ft.

Habitat: Coral and rocky reefs and on sandy and muddy bottoms, mostly in the intertidal but ranging down to 330 ft.

Distribution: Range widely in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific, from Madagascar and the Persian Gulf to Japan, the Philippines and Australia.

Diet: Probably includes small fishes and bottom invertebrates.

Shark bite: Longtailed carpetsharks often occur in tidepools on rocky or coral reefs close inshore, sometimes in water only sufficient to cover them.


12 species

Family Species

GINGLYMOSTOMATIDAE
Nurse shark
Appearance: They vary from small to large and have broad heads, no grooves around the outer edges of their nostrils and moderately stout bodies and tails. The anal fin is slightly behind the second dorsal fin and just in front of the short caudal fin. There is no color pattern; at most there are scattered dark spots and obscure saddles in young sharks.

Nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum
Nurse shark


Size: The short-tail nurse shark reaches a length of only 30 in, while

the other species can exceed nine ft.

Habitat: Off sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, and from the intertidal on coral and rocky reefs to depths of at least 230 ft.

Distribution: In all warm seas, including the eastern Pacific, the eastern and western Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean.

Diet: Small fishes, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, octopuses, squid, bivalves, sea-snails, sea-urchins, and corals.

Shark bite: Tawny nurse sharks use their muscular pharynx to inhale prey from crevices.


Three species


STEGOSTOMATIDAE
Zebra sharks
Appearance: The zebra shark has a broad caudal fin as long as its body, a broad, bluntly rounded head, no grooves around the outer edges of its nostrils, a moderately stout body, and a tail with strong lateral grooves. The anal fin is well behind the second dorsal fin and just in front of the caudal fin. Young zebra sharks have a color pattern of yellow stripes on a dark brown background; the adult sharks have a pattern of small brown spots and blotches on a yellow background.

Zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum
Zebra shark


Size: Most grow to a length of less than 10 ft, but some grow to nearly 12 ft.

Habitat: Mainly coral reefs and sandy areas adjacent to reefs, at moderate depths on or near the bottom.

Distribution: Ranges widely in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific.

Diet: Mainly bivalves and sea-snails, but also crabs, shrimps, and small bony fishes.

Shark bite: The zebra shark has a slender, flexible body and caudal fin which allows it to squirm into narrow cracks and reef crevices in search of food.


One species


RHINCODONTIDAE
Whale sharks
Appearance: A very distinctive shark with a broad flat head, truncated snout, terminal mouth, and tiny teeth. It has huge gill openings, lateral ridges on the trunk and tail, and a huge crescent caudal fin with a long lower lobe. Light spots and vertical and horizontal lines against a dark background create a checkerboard color pattern.

Whale shark Rhincodon typus
Whale shark


Size: The whale shark can grow to 45 feet long and is the world's largest fish.

Habitat: Usually near the surface, close inshore, and far from land in the great ocean basins.

Distribution: All warm temperate and tropical seas.

Diet: A filter-feeder that can ingest a wide variety of food organisms, from one-celled algae and minute crustaceans to mackerel and small tuna.

Shark bite: While feeding, the whale shark will occasionally do a "tail stand," keeping vertical in the water while they open their mouths to gulp down krill and small fishes.


One species


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