Have you ever thought about what the most unusual-looking shark species would be? On the other hand, the tasselled wobbegong shark is an excellent contender. These animals, which are sometimes called carpet sharks, have a unique, flattened look because of the branching lobes that come out of their heads. It doesn’t matter that these sharks were first written about in 1867 because we don’t know much about them.

A tasselled wobbegong. You definitely shouldn’t step on it! Source

UPDATE: It turns out that this isn’t a wobbegong but rather a type of anglerfish in the Lophiidae family. However, you should not step on it!

Eucrossorhinus dasypogon is a carpet shark in the family Orectolobidae. It lives on the shallow coral reefs off northern Australia, New Guinea, and the other nearby islands. They can grow to be 1.8 m (5.9 ft) long. They have a wide and flattened body and head that is wide and flat. It has a fringe of branching skin flaps that runs from the top of its head down to its chin and helps it blend into the coral reef where it lives.

This is how the wobbegong looks during the day. It can be seen lying down in caves or under ledges with its tail curled up. Still, at night, it comes out and hunts for food, even humans if the chance presents itself. They have been shown to bite and kill people even when they don’t want to. Most of the time, people get in their way or think they’re prey.

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Image credit: Jon Hanson

This type of wobbegong is the most specialized in the family. It has a lot of different colours and looks complicated, which makes it easy to hide. It’s also likely to be a slower swimmer than other species. But that isn’t a bad thing for this person.

Even though these creatures are solitary and have a small home range, this species is more active at night, swimming into the reef to hunt for food. One time, a 1.3 m (4.3 ft) long brownbanded bamboo shark was devoured by one of these sharks. It has a mouth that is so big that it can eat even the largest prey. Even though the carpet shark is most active at night, it is also an ambush predator during the day. It eats nocturnal schooling fish like soldierfish and squirrelfish and sweepers, which often hide in the same cave. Tiny fish and crustaceans have also been seen resting on the head of a resting wobbegong. This draws bigger fish, which are then attacked by the wobbegong. Wow.

In fact, captive investigations of these animals have indicated that this species appears to participate in active enticing behaviour. And a true one-of-a-kind one at that. When the tasselled wobbegong detects food nearby, it begins to slowly wag its tail back and forth, resembling a little fish with a dark eyespot at the base. And, because the shark usually sleeps with its head raised, it is within easy reach of any prey enticed by that curious tail. Humans, too.

Yup, wobbegongs have been linked to multiple unprovoked attacks on humans. The tasselled wobbegong is known to be even more aggressive than related species. Gilbert Whitley, an Australian naturalist, claimed in 1940 that it “attacks and generally kills the people” of Papua New Guinea. While it’s unclear whether Whitley’s story was true, this species is undoubtedly capable of inflicting severe injuries on people. Having said that, the tasselled wobbegong is also a popular ecotourism site, and many divers have approached it without mishap. However, given this shark’s enigmatic look and weak vision, humans should proceed with caution to avoid accidentally disturbing it or mistaking a hand or foot for prey.

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Perfect camouflage. Again, don’t step on it! Image credit: Leonard Low

A wobbegong that has long tails should be on your list of things to look for. It’s getting harder and harder to find sharks in even the few places where they can be found because of pollution, blast fishing, and coral loss.

We should not continue to step on it indefinitely.

Sources: 123



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