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TYPES OF SHARKS
SHARK CHAT FORUM
Threat Level: Low
The Epaulette Shark is also known
as Blind Shark.
- EPAULETTE SHARK
Scientific Name.... Hemiscyllium Ocellatum
- General Information: Epaulette sharks have
small, slightly flattened, elongated bodies that allow them to
swim between coral branches and wriggle into narrow reef crevices.
They have a swollen snout that is longer than that of any other
hemiscyllidae shark and nasal barbels. The two relatively large,
spineless dorsal fins are about the same size. The anal fin, far
back on the underside, is in front of the caudal fin, and separated
from it by a notch. These short. stubby, paired fins are used
by many species for "walking" across the bottom. The
dorsal and anal fins are set back on an extremely long thick tail.
- Size: The maximum length of this species if
about 3.6 feet.
- Teeth: They have small triangular teeth.
- Color: There have been two color phases that
have been observed: one has a golden base color, with numerous
small dark spots, and very pronounced ocelli ( a spot of color
encircled by a band of another color), while the other is tan
with fewer, larger spots and less distinct ocelli. There are two
large ocelli above its pectoral fins. Those spots look like ornamental
epaulettes on a military uniform- hence the shark's name. Predators
hovering above the shark could easily mistake the spots for eyes
of a larger, more dangerous fish and dash off to find smaller
prey. There are no spots on the snout.
- Feeding Habits: Epaulette sharks are nocturnal
( hunt at night ) and feed mainly on small benthic invertebrates
(worms, crab, shrimp and small shellfish ), possibly also small
fishes. When eating animals with hard shells, the shark's spiky,
sharp teeth flatten to form crushing plates. At night it roams
the reef flats using its muscular leg-like paired fins to clamber
about the reef and into crevices looking for prey. The epaulette
shark has the amazing ability to survive low oxygen conditions
by switching off non-essential brain functions; this is apparently
an adaption for hunting in tide pools with low oxygen. When hunting
buried prey it will shove its rostrum deep into the sand and move
it slightly from side to side. Presumably, the nasal barbels have
a sensory function. If so the shark could locate worms and crustaceans
hiding under the sand by contacting them with the barbels. The
epaulette shark may hunt cryptic prey within the staghorn coral
beds by day and moves out to hunt in more exposed areas at night.
- Social Behaviour: Epaulette sharks are solitary
species that is more active at dusk and by night. They are very
docile and not intimidated. Some inactive individuals are sometimes
observed hiding with their heads stuck under a ledge.
- Habitat | Migration | Distribution: Southwest
Pacific; New Guinea and Australia ( possibly to Solomon Islands
and Malaysia). They occur in coral ( particularly staghorn) in
shallow water and tidepools, sometimes barely submerged. Also
among coral boulders or on sand patches on reef flats.
- Reproduction: They are oviparous, and lays
atendril adhesive eggs cases, which are deposited at night usually
two at a time. When hatched they measure about 5.8 inches. Gestation
period is 120 days. When courting and mating, the male takes the
female's pectoral fin in his mouth. The pair swim parallel to
one another, at which time the male swings his body under the
female's and inserts a single clasper. Copulation lasts about
- Swimming: This species not only swims, but
it crawls and clambers.
- Epaulette Shark Attacks: Harmless. Is unafraid
of man, but may nip if captured.
- Population Report: Common. Populations appear
healthy, probably because epaulette sharks aren't of interest
to commercial fisheries.
- Epaulette Shark Facts: Because plants in tide
pools don't produce oxygen at night, creatures that live there
use up all or most of the oxygen during the night. Epaulette
sharks caught in tide pools by the receding tide can turn off
enough body functions to survive several hours with little or no
oxygen. Researchers are working to discover how the shark
manages with so little oxygen-the answer might help in the
treatment of stroke patients or during heart surgeries.