Japanese Wobbegong Shark

(Orectolobus japonicus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in shallow tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, along the coasts of Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Australia. They are most commonly found on rocky and coral reefs and on the sandy bottom, from the intertidal zone down to 350 feet.

Size: Up to 3 feet long; 40-50 pounds

Wild Diet: Small fish, crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates

Predators: Humans, large fish, and large marine mammals

Reproduction: Japanese wobbegong sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs develop and hatch in the mother’s body and young are born live. Females deliver up to 27 pups after a 1 year gestation period.

Behavior: Japanese wobbegong sharks are nocturnal and rarely seen by divers. Instead of actively hunting for food, they rest on the sea bottom and grab animals that swim close by with their sharp, fanglike teeth.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Data Deficient

Little is known of their life history and population density. Their value to fisheries is limited, though they are caught in bottom set gill nets in Japan for human consumption. They also are caught in China, Korea and Vietnam. Sharks in general reproduce slowly, bear few young at a time, have a long gestation period, and swim great distances to find a mate, so it takes years for their populations to recover from overfishing.

Did you know?

  • Japenese wobbegong sharks have sensitive barbels (that look like fleshy whiskers) and a fringe around their mouths help them to find prey on reefs and the ocean floor.
  • Their spots, blotches, and stripes provide excellent camouflage on the sea bottom.
  • Like all sharks, they use special receptors on their heads to sense electric charges. These receptors are called Ampullae of Lorenzini.