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 spotted wobbegong can be recognised by a distinctive colour pattern of dark saddles and circular spots surrounded by white rings on a yellow to greenish-brown background. Female spotted wobbegong are ovoviviparous breeders, where young are produced from eggs that are retained inside the female until they hatch. They give birth to a large number of young, usually approximately 30, of which are 20 centimetres long at birth. Females releasepheromones into the water column to attract males for mating.
The spotted wobbegong is most commonly found in temperate Australian coastal waters from Moreton Island, Qld to Fremantle, WA. The species inhabit sand or rocky reef bottoms to 100 metres depth. This species is gregarious and small groups are often found resting together in caves or on ledges. Nocturnal opportunistic feeders, the spotted wobbegong ambush their prey at surprising speed from a resting position, whether it is fish, crayfish, crabs and octopuses. The spotted wobbegong have also been observed resting on their ventral fins with their head raised, using the long barbells on the snout to lure prey. They grow to a maximum length of 3 metres.
The spotted wobbegong is currently assessed as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List (World Conservation Union Red List), due to serious declines in population numbers throughout the species range. The flesh is of excellent eating quality, and their hide is used for leather products.
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty:
The spotted wobbegong is rarely observed from the underwater observatory, however despite their excellent camouflage several individuals have been spotted part buried in sand, nestled amongst the seagrass on the seafloor.
Image by: S. Daniels