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What is a Wobbegong?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The wobbegong, also known as the wobbie or carpet shark, resides in shallow waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. The adult shark can range in length up to 10.5 feet (about 3.2 meters) and is known for its flattened head and yellowish brown or gray blotchy appearance, which allows it to blend into the water often undetected. Wobbegongs also possess distinct whisker appendages, and its name is believed to derive from the Australian Aboriginal term for "shaggy beard." Relatively harmless, the shark possesses razor sharp teeth, but typically keeps to itself and will not attack humans unless provoked.

More than six species of this type of shark exist, including Japanese wobbegongs, tasseled wobbegongs, cobbler wobbegongs, spotted wobbegongs, ornate wobbegongs, northern wobbegongs, and western wobbegongs. These sharks are typically found in water varying from 3 feet to 360 feet (about 1 to 110 meters) deep. The shark lives on ledges and in coral gardens, as well as in shipwrecks. It is not unusual for the wobbegong to live in caves with crayfish.

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Nocturnal creatures, wobbegongs often use their whiskers to help nab fish. Also, the shark can blend in to its surroundings such as rocks and the ocean floor preying upon fish that come too close. Usually, the shark will lay on the bottom of the water for hours and then lift up its mouth, which resembles seaweed when other creatures come close to investigate. Ambush predators, the shark uses its long sharp teeth for gripping its prey, and will often hold onto its victims until they perish and can be swallowed whole. The diet of the wobbegong includes smaller fish, crab, octopus, squid, rays, and even other sharks.

Wobbegongs mate during the winter and are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young without a placental attachment. A female’s gestation period is typically nine to 11 months. A female shark may give birth to litters that contain up to as many as 40 pups. Pups often emerge two at a time over a 24-hour span. At birth, the young are approximately 8 inches in length (about 20 centimeters) and can fend for themselves.

The shark is often fished, as the creatures lack bones. The wobbegong is often served at fish and chip restaurants in Australia. The wobbegong is also fished for its skin because of its unique color and patterns.

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