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Sea Life, Animals
& Exhibits

EPAULETTE-SHARK Click/Touch photo to view enlargement.

Epaulette Shark

(Hemiscyllium ocellatum)

The shark’s cream-colored body is covered with many brown dots and, above its pectoral fins, two large black spots (ocelli). 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. Muscular pectoral fins enable this shark to “walk” along the seafloor. When disturbed, instead of swimming out of danger, it sometimes quickly “runs” away.

An interesting fact about the epaulette shark is that it can actually turn off its non-essential bodily functions for several hours in order to survive in low-oxygen areas in the water. This is helpful when they get caught in tide pools. Scientists are conducting research on this shark in order to find out how it works so they can use that knowledge to help stroke patients or patients undergoing heart surgeries.

Habitat

They are found in shallow waters of coral reefs and in tide pools in Indo-West Pacific: New Guinea and Australia.

Diet

This shark hunts at night using its electrorecptors and sense of smell, often in tide pools, where it feeds on bottom dwellers like small fish and crustaceans. When eating animals with hard shells, the shark’s spiky, sharp teeth flatten to form crushing plates.

Behavior

Each female may release up to 50 eggs annually. These egg cases measure approximately 3.9 inches in length and 1.6 inches in width and hatch after about 120 days. When the young emerge, each measures around 5.9 inches in length. Growth is slow, measuring about 1.2 inches during the first year.

Predators

Larger fish and other sharks are predators of the Epaulette sharks.