When TFUI was Sarasota Fins, we introduced “Penny,” our female spokes-shark from the Hemiscylliidae family. The epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) is a long-tailed carpet shark that is also known as the blind shark; they differ from Brachaelurus waddi (check out their bio here). These sharks are found in the western Pacific Ocean around New Guinea and northern Australia (think Shark Bay to Newcastle). They may even reside in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Solomon islands (but there are no confirmed reports yet).
Penny and her family like to be found in shallow water coral reefs, staying in the 0-50 m zone (0-164 ft). They are found in tide pools, trapped by receding tides. Don’t worry though, they always return back to the sea. And they’re well adapted to survive while waiting to be reunited: they turn off non-essential body functions. In fact, one study determined blood pressure dropped 50% in a hypoxic environment (low-oxygen habitat).
And as you can see from the video above (thanks Sir Attenborough for the introduction vid), they can kind of walk! Their pectoral fins are round and paddle-like, which allow for an increased range of motion, so these sharks can move almost as if they’re walking. Never seen it before? Check it out above!
In Australia, the Hemiscyllidae family includes the speckled carpet shark (H. trispeculare). The epaulette shark is different from the speckled carpet shark small dark spots located behind the ocellus of the speckled carpet shark. The epaulette shark has no such spots, but they do have two large black spots (with a white outline) above its pectoral fins. The epaulette shark's common name comes from pattern, as they look like ornamental epaulettes on military uniforms.
These sharks to snack on unsuspecting benthic invertebrates, segmented worms and crustaceans. They are oviparous, and the female can release up to 50 eggs annually. The eggs hatch after about 120 days, and the young only measure around 15 cm (5.9 inches). Juvenile epaluette sharks have dark brown saddles, which then turn into the brown spots seen in adults. These sharks reach a maximum length of 107 cm (42.1 inches).
These sharks have many predators including larger fish, sharks and parasites that include praniza larvae. Listed as Least Concern (LC) by the IUCN due to its low fisheries value, this species is a favourite aquarium specimen.
did you know about these walking sharks?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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