Animal Species:Spotted Wobbegong, Orectolobus maculatus (Bonnaterre, 1788)

The Spotted Wobbegong has a pattern of dark saddles, white o-shaped spots and white blotches.  The species is widely distributed in subtropical and temperate Australian waters.

Standard Common Name

Spotted Wobbegong

Alternative Name/s

Carpet Shark, Common Carpet Shark, Common Catshark, Tassel Shark, Wobbegong


The Spotted Wobbegong can be recognised by the skin flaps around the snout margin and the distinctive colour pattern of dark saddles and white rings on a yellow to greenish-brown background.

The genus name Orectolobus comes from the Greek words orectos, meaning stretched out, and lobos meaning a rounded projection or protuberance. The genus name most likely refers to the barbels on the head. The species name maculatus comes from the Latin word macula which means spot, and refers to the shark's spotted colouration. 'Wobbegong' is an Australian aboriginal word.

Size range

It is about 20 cm in length when born and reaches a maximum size of about 3 m.


The species occurs along the southern coastline of Australia from southern Queensland to south-western Western Australia. It is possibly endemic to Australia. Records from Japan and the South China Sea are probably errors.

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

Orectolobus maculatus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Spotted Wobbegong specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


Spotted Wobbegongs live in shallow coastal waters down to about 100 m depth. They often lie on sand or rocky reef bottoms and are frequently seen by divers.

Feeding and Diet

Feeding occurs mainly at night and includes prey items such as fishes, crayfish, crabs and octopuses.



What does this mean?


  1. Brown, R.W. 1956. Composition of Scientific Words. R. W. Brown. Pp. 882.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  4. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513, Pl. 1-84.
  5. Stevens, J.D. in Gomon, M.F., J.C.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  6. Whitley, G.P. 1940. The fishes of Australia. Part I. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Royal Zoological Society N.S.W., Australian Zoological Handbook 1-280.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Spotted Wobbegong, Orectolobus maculatus, Orectolobidae, Carpet Shark, Common Carpet Shark, Common Catshark, Tassel Shark, Wobbegong, temperate waters, subtropical waters, dark saddles, white rings, skin flaps, yellow, greenish-brown, barbels on head, spotted, dots/spots, adult, marine, > 2m, yellow-greenish,


Mark McGrouther - 12.02 PM, 08 February 2010

Hi Will, You can send photos to me, but please don't send too many ... I have plenty of other things to do :).   You can email me at You are right in your observation that there are many species for which we don't have photos on the website.  I am still transferring content from the old site (which had a more comprehensive coverage of the fauna) to the new. Cheers, Mark

Will Teo - 3.02 PM, 05 February 2010
Hi Amanda, I was wondering where do I send my photos for identification? etc sharks, rays.. and would I be able to contribute my photos and get them recognised since I noticed that some species do not have corresponding photos.
Amanda Hay - 9.01 AM, 19 January 2010

Hi Damian,

They certainly are one of my favourite fish. There are three species of wobbies (two of them have been reported to reach 3 m) that can be found in coastal waters around Sydney and the best way to ID them is by the colour patterns. Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei, are strongly ornamented with the margins of the saddles on the back having black borders. The Spotted Wobbegong, Orectolobus maculatus, is pale yellowish or greenish brown with the darker saddles having numerous white edged rings and blotches. Ornate Wobbegong, Orectolobus ornatus, is generally the smallest and grows to just over a metre, as the name suggests its highly ornamented, strongly speckled or freckled as I like to think of it.

If you do love sharks the reference we always use is Last & Stevens, 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia 2nd Edition, its a fabulous book.

Happy snorkeling and please feel free to send us any pictures you may have for confirmation.

Wolflord101 - 5.01 PM, 18 January 2010
Hi, I was snorkeling in Gordon's Bay, Sydney recently, and saw a Wobbegong shark for the first time. It was HUGE, definitely longer than 2 m. one of my friends told me he had seen a big Wobbegong there before as well, so I'm pretty sure I might be able to find it again if I look for it. I just read the articles on this site about the Banded and spotted Wobbegongs, and also one about Ornate Wobbegongs and they all can apparently reach a size of about 3 m. I want to know which one I saw, so could some one please give me a few pointers to look for the next time I go looking for it. they all look a bit similar in the photos I've seen. any help and information will be much appreciated. I will be taking a camera next time so hopefully I can provide you with photos and videos if you want. I will not give up till I capture it on camera... it was one of the most beautiful fish I'd ever seen, and it made me feel very small hehe.

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