Temporal range: Upper Jurassic–Recent
|Spotted wobbegong, Orectolobus maculatus,
showing the camouflage pattern and skin flaps
typical of wobbegongs.
T. N. Gill, 1896
For the fictional place see Lake Wobegon.
Wobbegong is the common name given to the 12 species of carpet sharks in the family Orectolobidae. They are found in shallow temperate and tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean and eastern Indian Ocean, chiefly around Australia and Indonesia, although one species (the Japanese wobbegong, Orectolobus japonicus) occurs as far north as Japan. The word wobbegong is believed to come from an Australian Aboriginal language, meaning "shaggy beard", referring to the growths around the mouth of the shark of the western Pacific.
Wobbegongs are bottom-dwelling sharks and spend much of their time resting on the sea floor. Most species have a maximum length of 1.25 m (4.1 ft) or less, but the largest, the spotted wobbegong, Orectolobus maculatus, and banded wobbegong, O. halei, reach about 3 m (9.8 ft) in length.
Wobbegongs are well camouflaged with a symmetrical pattern of bold markings which resembles a carpet. Because of this striking pattern, wobbegongs and their close relatives are often referred to as carpet sharks. The camouflage is improved by the presence of small weedlike whisker lobes surrounding the wobbegong's jaw, which help to camouflage it and act as sensory barbs. Wobbegongs make use of their relative invisibility to hide among rocks and catch smaller fish which swim too close, typical of ambush predators.
Wobbegongs are generally not dangerous to humans unless they are provoked. They have bitten people who accidentally step on them in shallow water; they may also bite scuba divers or snorkellers who poke or touch them, or who block their escape route. Wobbegongs are very flexible and can easily bite a hand holding on to their tail.
They have many small but sharp teeth and their bite can be severe, even through a wetsuit; having once bitten, they have been known to hang on and can be very difficult to remove.
Interaction with humans
Although wobbegongs do not eat humans, humans frequently eat wobbegongs. In Australia, the flesh of wobbegongs and other shark species is called flake and it is often the "fish" component of fish and chips.
Wobbegong skin is also used to make leather.
Although most wobbegong species are unsuitable for home aquaria due to their large adult size, this has not stopped some of the larger species from being sold in the aquarium trade. Small wobbegong species, such as the tasselled wobbegong and Ward's wobbegong, are "ideal" sharks for home aquarists to keep because they are an appropriate size and are lethargic, enabling them to be accommodated within the limited space of home aquaria, although they will consume tankmates, even quite large ones. Some aquarists, by contrast, see the lack of activity to be a drawback to keeping wobbegongs and prefer more active sharks. Wobbegongs are largely nocturnal and, due to their slow metabolism, do not have to be fed as often as other sharks. Most do well on two feedings weekly. Underfed wobbegongs can be recognised by visibly atrophied dorsal musculature.
Genera and species
The 12 living species of wobbegong, in three genera, are:
- Genus Eucrossorhinus Regan, 1908
- Genus Orectolobus Bonaparte, 1834
- Orectolobus floridus Last & Chidlow, 2008 (floral banded wobbegong)
- Orectolobus halei Whitley, 1940. (Gulf wobbegong or banded wobbegong)
- Orectolobus hutchinsi Last, Chidlow & Compagno, 2006. (western wobbegong)
- Orectolobus japonicus Regan, 1906 (Japanese wobbegong)
- Orectolobus leptolineatus Last, Pogonoski & W. T. White, 2010 (Indonesian wobbegong)
- Orectolobus maculatus (Bonnaterre, 1788) (spotted wobbegong)
- Orectolobus ornatus (De Vis, 1883) (ornate wobbegong)
- Orectolobus parvimaculatus Last & Chidlow, 2008 (dwarf spotted wobbegong)
- Orectolobus reticulatus Last, Pogonoski & W. T. White, 2008 (network wobbegong)
- Orectolobus wardi Whitley, 1939 (northern wobbegong)
- Genus Sutorectus Whitley, 1939
Fossil genera include:
- Eometlaouia Noubhani & Cappetta, 2002
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Orectolobidae.|
- "Wobbegongs - five species encountered in Queensland". Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries. 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Kuiter, Rudie (1999). Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia (amended ed.). New Holland Publishers (Aust.) Pty Ltd. p. 12. ISBN 1-86436-091-7.
- "Shark sinks its teeth in for the long haul". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-02-12. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- Michael, Scott W. (March 2004). "Sharks at Home". Aquarium Fish Magazine. pp. 20–29.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Orectolobidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
- Huveneers (2006). "Redescription of two species of wobbegongs (Chondrichthyes: Orectolobidae) with elevation of Orectolobus halei Whitley 1940 to species level". Zootaxa 1284: 29–51.
- Last, Chidlow & Compagno (2006). "A new wobbegong shark, Orectolobus hutchinsi n. sp. (Orectolobiformes: Orectolobidae) from southwestern Australia". Zootaxa 1239: 35–48.
- Fishbase page on wobbegongs
- Australian Museum page on the spotted wobbegong
- Wobbegong shark pictures