Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum Click to enlarge image
A 59cm long Epaulette Shark. Image: unknown
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    ocellatum
    Genus
    Hemiscyllium
    Family
    Hemiscylliidae
    Order
    Orectolobiformes
    Class
    Chondrichthyes
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to just over 1 m in length.

Introduction

The Epaulette Shark is a slender species that has a large black ocellus (eye-like spot with a marginal ring) above the pectoral fin. It is a bottom-dwelling species which lives primarily in warm, shallow waters.



Identification

The Epaulette Shark is a slender species that has a large black ocellus (eye-like spot with a marginal ring) above the pectoral fin and widely spaced black spots on the body. It has two similar sized dorsal fins and an anal fin positioned just anterior to the tail.

The species has a oronasal groove which connects the mouth to with the nostrils, small triangular teeth, and short nasal barbels.

The Epaulette Shark is a member of the fish family Hemiscylliidae, collectively called the Longtail Carpet Sharks. In Australia, the family contains three species, the Epaulette Shark, the Speckled Carpet Shark, Hemiscyllium trispeculare and the Grey Carpet Shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum. An easy way to tell the difference between the Epaulette and Speckled Carpet Shark is the presence of small dark spots immediately behind the ocellus of the Speckled Carpet Shark. These spots are absent in the Epaulette Shark.


Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum
An Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum, in an aquarium. The yellow fish is a Sailfin Tang, probably Zebrasoma flavescens. Image: Byron Allsopp
© Byron Allsopp

Habitat

It is a bottom-dwelling species which lives primarily in warm, shallow marine waters.

Distribution

In Australia, the Epaulette Shark occurs from Shark Bay, Western Australia around the northern coastline of the continent and south on the east coast to at least Newcastle, and possibly to Sydney, New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.



Feeding and diet

It eats bottom-living invertebrates.

Breeding behaviours

Males mature at around 60 cm in length. The Epaulette Shark is an oviparous (lays eggs) species. The eggs are about 10 cm long and 4 cm wide. They hatch after about 130 days. Young are around 15 cm in length when they hatch.

References

  1. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513, Pl. 1-84.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.