Tasseled Wobbegong: master of camouflage, supreme ambush predator

Tasseled Wobbegongs (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) are a species of carpet shark in the family Orectolobidae. These bottom-dwellers are found in shallow coral reefs off northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, rarely beyond depths of more than 50 metres.

Master of camouflage

The word Wobbegong is believed to originate from the Australian Aboriginal word for “shaggy beard”, referring to the fringe of weed-like whisker lobes surrounding its jaw, which act as sensory barbs (to detect approaching prey) and camouflage (by breaking up its outline to seamlessly blend in with its environment).

The complex mosaic of blotches, patches, and lines on its skin further helps it ‘disappear’ on the sandy and rocky reef bottoms where it is commonly found.

Tail as bait, lightning fast ambush predator

The largely nocturnal Tasseled Wobbegong is a master of patience and an opportunistic ambush predator.  It either waits for prey (such as squirrelfish, soldierfish and sweepers) to wander into range or uses its tail as a lure by waving it back and forth to draw its prey even closer.

tasseled wobbegong
Its waving tail doubles up as ‘bait’

When an unsuspecting prey comes within reach, it opens its mouth at lighning speed. This causes sudden pressure differences in the water that sucks the fish into its jaws, allowing the wobbegong to swallow it whole.

Here’s a video showcasing the Tasseled Wobbegong’s ambush hunting prowess.

An ovoviviparous species

The Tasseled Wobbegong is an ovoviviparous species, meaning the young are first hatched within the body of the parent before being born. This species gives live birth to 20 or more pups, each measuring about 20 cm  long.

On 1 December 2016, a female Tasseled Wobbegong at S.E.A. Aquarium gave birth to our first litter of pups. A total of 31 pups were born over 6 weeks. Read more about the birth of our Tasseled Wobbegong Pups here.

tasseled wobbegong
The pups are often seen piling on top of one another to camouflage themselves.

Come meet these quirky-looking predators at S.E.A. Aquarium. With Spooky Seas happening now till 28 October 2018, there are interactive activities around the aquarium to help everyone, especially the kids, learn more about these amazing fish and other quirky sea creatures. Details here

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