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Longtailed Carpetsharks. Hemiscylliidae species.

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: Hemiscylliidae
Genus: Chiloscyllium & Hemiscyllium
Species: melanopterus
Taxonomic name (of species shown above): Chiloscyllium punctatum

This family of slender sharks contain the many species of Epaulette Sharks and the Brown Banded Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum). The Brown Banded Bamboo Shark is a tropical species found across the northern coast of Australia and the Indo-Pacific north to Japan and west to the east coast of India. Its common name comes from the juvenile's pattern of dark chocolate brown bands on a cream body; these blend and fade to a uniform grey or brown in adulthood. When the young hatch from their eggs they are about 17 cm long but they grow to a metre or more. Their bodies are slender with broad paddle-shaped pectoral fins that are used to wedge themselves into crevices to avoid predators. This shark is often confused with the Nurse or Blind Shark but it can be easily distinguished by the conspicuous white edges to its gills.

While the Brown Banded Bamboo Shark may occur at depths as great as 90 m, it is far more common in shallow reef areas where it feeds on invertebrates, such as crabs and shelled molluscs, as well as small fish.. This shark has the ability to live for extended periods out of water. This is possibly in response to its tendency to become stranded in rock pools at low tide.

Epaulette Shark

The common name for the Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) comes from the large dark spot that develops over each pectoral fin ofthe adults, much like the epaulette shoulder patches on a military uniform. Juveniles have dark 'saddles' on the back which fade as the speckled adult coloration takes over. Epaulette Sharks are egg-layers with juveniles 15 cm long growing to an adult size of one metre. The distinctive colour pattern easily distinguishes this shark from other similar-shaped carpet sharks.

Epaulette Sharks are commonly found in tropical Australian waters and are the most accessible of all sharks for reef waders and snorkelers. During the day they hide under ledges and large sections of coral rubble, at times in just a few inches of water. During the night they can be found in the shallows foraging for small invertebrates. This shark is harmless and will happily go about its business among waders if not harassed.

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