Family Orectolobidae - Wobbegongs

   Name

Wobbegong is an aboriginal word reportedly meaning "Shaggy beard".

This small family of sharks is found only in the western Pacific. Seven of the eight species are found in Australia, with three at Julian Rocks - the Spotted Wobbegong, Hale's and the Ornate Wobbegong. Apart from the size of the Ornate wobbegong, they have small differences in appearance and similar lifestyles.

During the day they are usually found sleeping.

Wobbegongs are normally docile and don't eat people. However, they are very agile, they will bite if provoked and may be very reluctant to let go.

All sharks obtain oxygen by passing seawater over their gills. Bottom dwellers such as Wobbegongs take in water through enlarged spiracles on the tops of their heads as their mouths are close to the sediment.

   Diet

Wobbegongs have needle like teeth for grasping and holding prey.
They feed mainly at night, but sometimes during the day, on fish, crustaceans, octopus and occasionally other Wobbegongs or Blind Sharks.
They may hold onto their prey for an extended period until it dies then swallow it without struggle.
Wobbegongs have been seen to take on porcupine fish and and die in the attempt.

Crayfish form commensal relationships with wobbegongs. Wobbegongs eat octopus, and octopus eat crayfish. By living in close proximity to the wobbegong, the crayfish serves the wobbegong as bait and in turn receives protection.

They have been over fished and are in decline. Their skins have been used for leather and their meat has been sold in fish and chip shops as "flake".

   Reproduction

Wobbegongs are ovoviviparous. That is, they give birth to live young, but there is no placental attachment to the mother, each pup has its own yolk sac. The pups are about 20cms long at birth, there are about 20 in a Spotted Wobbegong litter and less than half that number for the smaller Ornate Wobbegong.

The three Wobbegongs in the pictures below are engaged in some interesting behaviour which could be related to mating. It is worth noting that the light coloured one which is biting the one in the middle is female. The gender of the other two is not clear.