Ever wondered what the most special-looking shark species could be? Well, the tasseled wobbegong shark is definitely a good candidate. Sometimes referred to as carpet sharks, these animals have an extraordinary, flattened appearance, due to their characteristic, branched lobes that extend from their heads. Although these sharks were first described in 1867, they remain mysterious as we still really don’t know them.
A tasselled wobbegong. You definitely shouldn’t step on it! SourceUPDATE: Apparently, this isn’t a wobbegong but a type of anglerfish in the Lophiidae family. You still shouldn’t step on it though!
The tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) is a species of carpet shark in the family Orectolobidae that inhabits the shallow coral reefs off northern Australia, New Guinea, and the adjacent islands. Reaching 1.8 m (5.9 ft) in length, this species has a broad and flattened body and head, but its most distinctive trait is a fringe of branching dermal flaps around its head, which extends onto its chin that enable it to camouflage itself against the coral reef environment, in which it lives.
During the day, the solitary tasselled wobbegong can generally be found lying inside caves or under ledges with its tail curled up, but when the night comes, it emerges and actively forages for food – even for humans, if the opportunity arises. They have been reported to bite and kill people even when unprovoked, with most attacks probably resulting from people accidentally disturbing them or being misperceived as prey.
The tasselled wobbegong is considered the most specialized member of its family. Its ornate coloration and complex outlook grants it excellent camouflage, while it is probably a slower swimmer than related species. But that by no way means a disadvantage for this guy.
While these animals are solitary and individual sharks have a small home range, containing several preferred resting spots that are used repeatedly, this species becomes more active at night, swimming onto the reef to hunt.
Its enormous mouth allows even sizeable prey to be swallowed, with one documented case of a 1.3 m (4.3 ft) long individual consuming a 1.0 m (3.3 ft) long brownbanded bamboo shark. Although the carpet shark is most active at night, it is an opportunistic ambush predator during daytime, preying upon schooling nocturnal fish such as soldierfish and squirrelfish, and sweepers that often shelter in the same cave.
Also, tiny fish and crustaceans have been seen settling atop the resting wobbegong’s head, attracting larger fish that are in turn attacked by the wobbegong. Wow.