Wobbegongs are benthic sharks, or carpet sharks as they are otherwise known, and are characterised by their flattened bodies and marbled patterns covering the dorsal surface of the body. The head features numerous fleshy lobes and long barbells on snout, two dorsal fins of similar size and an anal fin just in front of the tail. There are only eight species known in the family Orectolobidae, most of which occur in temperate and tropical region of Australia. The ornate wobbegong is the most common species in southern Australia and is identified by a mottled brown and bluish- grey colouration, with blotches surrounding spots over the surface of the body and fins. Female ornate wobbegongs are ovoviviparous, where young are produced from eggs that are retained inside the female until they hatch.
The ornate wobbegong is widespread in the waters surrounding the Australian mainland, as well as Flinders Island, Tasmania. This species is commonly found resting amongst inshore coral or rocky reefs and offshore islands to 50 metres depth. A gregarious species, the ornate wobbegong is often found in groups resting on the benthos in caves or upon rocky ledges. Ornate wobbegongs are ambush predators and feeding occurs nocturnally. They lie in wait for passing prey such as fish, crustaceans, octopus and cuttlefish which they attack with surprising speed and unpredictability, even attacking large prey. The ornate wobbegong grows to a maximum length of 1.5 metres.
Other common names include: Dwarf ornate wobbegong shark, banded wobbegong (misidentification, recent studies have shown that the larger sized animals in excess of 1.5 metres may actually be a distinct species now referred to as the banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei)).
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty:
The ornate wobbegong is rarely observed from the underwater observatory, however despite their excellent camouflage several individuals have been spotted nestled amongst the fallen debris on the seafloor.