Also known as the “blind shark,” they are found swimming in the western Pacific Ocean around New Guinea and north Australia. In the Land Down Under, they are seen from Shark Bay (in WA) up to Newcastle. In fact, they may even reside in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Solomon islands (no confirmed reports yet).
Penny and her family like to be found in shallow water coral reefs, staying in the 0-50 m zone (0-164 ft). They are found in tide pools, trapped by receding tides. Don’t worry though, they always return back to the sea. And they’re well adapted to survive while waiting to be reunited; they turn off non-essential body functions. In fact, one study determined blood pressure dropped 50% in a hypoxic environment (low-oxygen habitat).
Well, “walk.” Their pectoral fins are round and paddle-like. Modifications allow for an increased range of motion, allow these sharks to move almost as if they’re walking. Never seen it before? Here’s a great video.
I am not ashamed to admit I watched this for hours once. Completely enthralled.
In Australia, the Hemiscyllidae family includes Penny’s species as well as the speckled carpet shark (H. trispeculare). The epaulette shark is different from the speckled carpet shark small dark spots located behind the ocellus (DEFINITION) of the speckled carpet shark. The epaulette shark has no such spots.
But, they do have two large black spots (with a white outline) above its pectoral fins. Their creamy body has widely spaced brown spots. Their name comes from pattern, as they look like ornamental epaulettes on military uniforms.
The more you know, right?
Is this your favorite shark yet? Because how much more adorable do they have to get?
Let me tell you about their size then. These sharks reach a whopping maximum length of 107 cm (42.1 inches). Meaning larger fish definitely target these little sharks are potential prey.
They are oviparous, and the female can release up to 50 eggs annually. These eggs hatch after about 120 days, and the young only measure around 15 cm (5.9 inches). They grow slowly, too.
That camouflaged body sure does come in handy!
What the camouflage can’t hide them from is parasites. These include praniza larvae (of gnathiid isopods).
Other than that, they’re pretty calm and easy to approach, making them good aquarium animals (they live long in captivity, too).
The IUCN has assessed this animal as “Least Concern” (LC).