FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
Hemiscyllium ocellatum:   (click for more)

See tree map  display tree map
  • Squalus oculatus  Banks and Solander, 1827(in Gray): 436. Holotype: Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, MNHN-1003, 353 mm TL (immature) male, vicinity of Cooktown, Queensland, Australia. Status of type confirmed by Dingerkus and DeFino (1983: 40).
    Other Combinations:   (Bonnaterre, 1788),
    FAO Names
    En - Epaulette shark, Fr - Requin-chabot ocellé, Sp - Bamboa ocellada.
    3Alpha Code: ORN     Taxonomic Code: 1070400203
    Scientific Name with Original Description
    Squalus ocellatus  Bonnaterre, 1788, Tabl. Encyclop. Method. Trois Reg. Nat., Ichthyol., Paris: 8. Holotype: Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, MNHN-1003, 353 mm TL (immature) male, "La mer du sud", vicinity of Cookstown, Queensland, Australia. Status of type confirmed by Dingerkus and DeFino, 1983, Bull. American Mus. Nat. Hist., 176(1): 40.
    Diagnostic Features
    fieldmarks: Mouth well in front of eyes; spineless dorsal fins far posterior on tail, extremely elongated thick precaudal tail, long and low anal fin just anterior to caudal fin; no spots on snout, small dark wide-spaced spots on body, a conspicuous white-ringed black ocellus, without surrounding black spots, on flanks above pectoral fins, no black hood or white spots.

    Prebranchial head and snout without a black hood; underside of the head uniformly light and without dark spots; preorbital snout without spots. Black epaulette spot of shoulder strongly marked, large, in the form of a conspicuous white-ringed ocellus, with scattered and inconspicuous small dark spots surrounding the posterior and dorsal part of the epaulette spot. White spots absent from fins and body; body and unpaired fins with small to medium-sized dark spots that are much smaller than the epaulette spot, dark spots loose-set and not forming a reticular network of light background colour between them; pectoral and pelvic fins with conspicuous black webs and light margins in young, fading in adults, sometimes a few small dark spots on paired fins of adults. Dark saddles on dorsal surface and sides of tail extending as dark crossbands onto ventral surface of preanal tail in young, but saddles and crossbands lost in adults which have uniform light ventral surfaces on their preanal tails. 
    Geographical Distribution

    Launch the Aquatic Species Distribution map viewer

    Western South Pacific: New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia), Australia (Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales), Solomon Islands, possibly also Malaysia and Sumatra.
    Habitat and Biology
    An abundant, small, harmless tropical shark found on coral reefs in shallow water, often in tidepools and sometimes in water barely covering it. It prefers staghorn coral stands on reef faces, coral flats, and tide pools.

    Particularly common on the Great Barrier Reef, where it can be seen crawling and clambering about and swimming on the bottom.It is more active after dark, particularly at dusk, but also coordinates its activities with tidal cycles, preferring to feed when the tide is out. It is unafraid of people and will come up to the feet of a 'reef-fossicker' (a person picking over a coral reef) and pick up small food items disturbed by the person. When disturbed it may make frantic attempts to find shelter under coral debris and in crevices, but is apparently satisfied, like the ostrich myth, if its head and pectoral region is covered and its tail is exposed.

    Oviparous, eggs taking about 120 days to hatch. The male grabs the female by her pectoral fin while mating. 

    Eats primarily polychaete worms and small decapod crabs (Xanthidae, Portunidae and Ocypodidae), but also pistol shrimps (Alpheidae), mantis shrimps (Stomatopoda), amphipods, and teleost fishes (including dragonettes, Callyonymidae); also shelled molluscs. Young eat more worms, small fishes and amphipods than adults, which eat more crabs and shrimps, while adults eat larger crabs than young. While hunting for food it swims near the bottom, and may stop, and wave its snout back and forth over sandy bottom to locate prey (possibly using both electroreception and olfaction). In shallow water on sandy patches between coral heads the epaulette shark may arch its body, force its snout into the sand, and vigorously thrash its tail out of water while seeking and rooting out prey, then stops and masticates its catch.

    This species is frequently infested with praniza larvae of gnathiid isopods. The parasites have a preference for the cloaca and clasper regions, but are also found in the buccal and branchial cavities. Heupel and Bennett (1999) believe the parasites do not adversely affect the health of the host.
    Maximum total length about 107 cm. Hatchlings are about 15 cm long; smallest freeliving specimen recorded at 16.7 cm; males maturing between 59 and 62 cm, with immature or adolescents up to 62 cm and adults as small as 59 cm; an adult female was 64.3 cm.
    Interest to Fisheries
    Interest to fisheries limited at present. Its importance to the aquarium trade needs to be assessed. It is a popular aquarium shark and is displayed in numerous public aquaria in Australia, Canada, and the United States.

    Conservation Status : The conservation status of this shark is uncertain, but at least part of its habitat is protected in Australia.
    Local Names
    Widespread : Epaulette shark ,  Itar shark .
    Although this species has been reported from a fairly wide range in the Indo-Australian Archipelago, the review of Dingerkus and DeFino (1983) listed specimens only from Australia (mostly from Queensland but also northwestern Australia and New SouthWales) and Solomon Islands. Last and Stevens (1994) mapped its distribution as including tropical Australia and both coasts of New Guinea. Nominal records from Malaysia and Sumatra (Stead, 1963) need confirmation.
    Threat to humans: It is one of the sharks observed by divers and reef-fossickers on the Great Barrier Reef. It may nip people when provoked.
    Source of Information
    Sharks of the world An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2 Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). Leonard J.V. Compagno 2001.  FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1, Vol. 2. Rome, FAO. 2001. p.269.
    Compagno, 1984
    Dingerkus & DeFino, 1983
    Fowler, 1941
    Garman, 1913
    Grant, 1982
    Heupel & Bennett, 1998, 1999
    Last & Stevens, 1994
    Marshall, 1964
    Michael, 1993
    Stead, 1963
    Whitley, 1940
    Whitley & Pollard, 1980
    Powered by FIGIS