This month we're showcasing the Epaulette Shark.

A small and slender shark, that walks!

While capable of swimming, the Epaulette Shark seems to prefer ‘walking’. Using their muscular pectoral fins they can often be seen 'strolling' between rock pools in search of food.

Sandy-brown in colour with a pattern of dark spots, these sharks are well camouflaged. They also have two large black spots surrounded by a white ring, resembling large eyes.

Eyespots (or ocellus) appear in many species - including butterflies, birds, reptiles, and other fish. It’s thought that they make the animal appear bigger and so more intimidating to predators. They may also help deflect attacks away from vital parts of their body.

The Epaulette Shark has a short-rounded snout, long tail, and thick-rounded muscular fins. They belong to a group of sharks known as the Carpet Sharks, which include wobbegongs and the Whale Shark.

This little shark is most active at low-tide and at night. Particularly at dusk and dawn.

Often they can be found - barely submerged - in the warm shallow oxygen-depleted waters of rock-pools. These become severely hypoxic at night. Yet, remarkably, Epaulette’s can survive here for long periods of time by increasing blood supply to their brain and shutting down non-essential brain functions.

Epaulettes reproduce by laying eggs, at night, among the coral. From August-January females will lay one pair of eggs every 14 days, producing 20 eggs a year.

Pups hatch after ~115-130 days and are born ~14-16cm. They reach sexual maturity around 7 years.

What they lack in size, they make up for in attitude. They’re not afraid of humans and will nip if captured.


  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hemiscyllium ocellatum
  • FAMILY: Hemiscylliidae (Longtailed Carpetsharks)

  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 107cm total length

  • DIET: Worms, crustaceans and small fish

  • DISTRIBUTION: Northern Australia and New Guinea

  • HABITAT: Shallow, inshore waters and coral reefs


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