It seems that no matter how hard I try I can’t stop blogging about animals with funny names. If I were to discover a new species, I would be sure to give it as strange a name as possible, just so people would pay more attention to it. I mean, what name captures your attention more, carpet sharks or wobbegongs? They both refer to the same group of animals but I’d definitely rather see a wobbegong than a carpet shark.

Wobbegongs are a family of sharks, the Orectolobidae (which is definitely the worst name of the bunch). They live in waters in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, usually around Australia and Indonesia. They prefer to live in shallow waters, and stick along the ocean bottom. Wobbegongs are usually found around coral reefs, estuaries, seagrass beds or coastal bays. They are nocturnal sharks, so they spend their days hiding in caves or creepy-looking shipwrecks.

See how good they are at blending in? Image by Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because they live on the sea floor, wobbegongs are flattened, to help them blend into the ground. Most species of wobbegong reach a maximum length of 1.25-3 m. Wobbegongs are famous for their patterned markings, which aid in camouflaging the sharks. They also have some funny looking barbs on their head, which make the shark look like a weedy growth instead of an animal.

The head of a tasselled wobbegong. It really doesn’t look like an animal, does it?
Image by jon hanson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wobbegongs feed on invertebrates and fish that live on the sea floor. Because of their slow swimming speed and excellent camouflage, wobbegongs tend to be ambush predators. They wait for a suitable meal to swim by and then gobble them up in a flash. Wobbegongs have fairly large mouths, so can consume quite big prey. In one instance a 1.3 m tasselled wobbegong ate a 1.0 m long bamboo shark. That’s a lot of shark.

Despite their somewhat odd shape, wobbegongs are very flexible and have no trouble biting a hand that has grabbed their tail. Bottom line is, don’t disturb a wobbegong, because their bites can be nasty and they don’t let go.

Cover image by Richard Ling, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons