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Ornate Wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus)

Ornate Wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus)

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Orectolobidae
Genus: Orectolobus
Species: ornatus
Taxonomic name: Orectolobus ornatus

All wobbegongs have a similar flattened body shape with differing colour patterns and dermal lobes or tassels of skin around the head and jaws that helps us to differentiate between species. In Australian there are six species of wobbegong but the Ornate Wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus) has the widest distribution. Commonly found resting amongst rocky or coral reefs, this species can be confused with the similar patterns of the Spotted Wobbegong but it has dark blotches and 'saddles' edged in black spots while the Spotted Wobbegong has dark blotches and 'saddles' edged in white spots.

While wobbegongs tend to be more active at night, they are opportunistic feeders taking a meal at any time that suits their cantankerous disposition. Their hunting technique is a sit-and-wait strategy that relies on their superb camouflage to trick fish, lobsters, octopuses and cuttlefish that wander into their range. At times they may also prop themselves up on their pectoral fins and hold their head high to attract prey to their tassels. When a victim comes into range a lightening fast snap of the jaws secures the prey which is swallowed whole. Large prey items may be held for days in a bulldog grip until dying, allowing the wobbegong to swallow its victim without a struggle.Box: Wounding by Wobbegong

If a wobbegong is molested or attacked, its spear-shaped holding teeth can inflict a painful but shallow wound. Care should be taken when wading or diving in the vicinity of wobbegongs as their perfect camouflage can trick the unwary, an excuse unacceptable to the grumpy wobbegong.

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