FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
Orectolobus maculatus:   (click for more)

See tree map  display tree map
  • Squalus barbatus  Gmelin, 1788(in Linnaeus and Gmelin): 1493. New Holland. On 'barbu' of Broussonet, 1780, Mem. Acad. Sci. Paris, 657, no. 7, New Holland. No types known according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Squalus lobatus  Bloch and Schneider, 1801: 137. On the 'Watt's Shark' of Phillip, 1789: 285, pl. 53. Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia. No types known according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Squalus appendiculatus  Shaw and Nodder, 1806: pl. 737. Antarctic seas. On the 'Watt's Shark' of Phillip, 1789: 285, pl. 53. Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia. No types known according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
    Other Combinations:  ,
    FAO Names
    En - Spotted wobbegong, Fr - Requin-tapis tacheté, Sp - Tapicero manchado.
    3Alpha Code: ORT     Taxonomic Code: 1070200202
    Scientific Name with Original Description
    Squalus maculatus  Bonnaterre, 1788, Tabl. Encyclop. Method. Trois Reg. Nat., Ichthyol., Paris: 8. No type material? Type locality: quot;La mer du sud".
    Diagnostic Features
    fieldmarks: Flattened benthic sharks with dermal lobes on sides of head, symphysial groove on chin; a rather sombre, variegated colour pattern of dark back with obscure darker dorsal saddles and densely covered with prominent light O-shaped spots; also, mouth in front of eyes, long, basally branched nasal barbels, nasoral grooves and circumnarial grooves, two rows of enlarged fang-like teeth in upper jaw and three in lower jaw; first dorsal-fin origin over pelvic-fin bases.

    Nasal barbels with a few basal branches. Six to ten dermal lobes below and in front of eye on each side of head; dermal lobes behind spiracles branched and broad. No dermal tubercles or ridges on back.  Interspace between dorsal fins longer than inner margin of first dorsal fin, about half length of dorsal-fin base. Origin of first dorsal fin over about last third of pelvic-fin base. First dorsal-fin height about equal to base length.  Colour pattern variegated but more sombre and less contrasting than most other wobbegongs except Orectolobus wardi, dorsal surface of body dark with somewhat obscure, broad, darker rectangular saddles with deeply corrugated margins separated by lighter areas, the entire dorsal surface densely spotted with large, O-shaped, light markings; saddles not ocellate in appearance; interspaces between saddles without broad reticulated lines. 
    Geographical Distribution

    Launch the Aquatic Species Distribution map viewer

    Western Pacific: South coast of Australia (Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland, Tasmanian records probably invalid, possibly not Northern Territory). Records from Japan and the South China Sea need confirmation.
    Habitat and Biology
    An abundant, temperate to tropical, inshore to offshore bottom shark of the continental shelves of the western Pacific,occurring in the intertidal down to at least 110 m, commonly on coral and rocky reefs, in coastal bays, in estuaries, in seagrass beds, under piers, and on sandy bottom. It may occur in water barely deep enough to cover it, and has been seen climbing over ridges between tidepools, with its back out of water. Juveniles occur on low reefs, in seagrass beds, and in estuaries. It sometimes makes short trips well above the bottom.

    This shark apparently is sluggish and inactive and is often found motionless on the bottom, at least during the day when it is presumably resting. It often is found in caves, under overhangs on rocky reefs, in channels, and in shipwrecks during the day. It is well camouflaged by its colour pattern and dermal flaps on rough bottom but is rather conspicuous on sand. This species (and wobbegongs in general) has not been studied to the extent of some nurse sharks (Ginglymostomatidae), but site specificity may be a feature of its behaviour as with nurse sharks: anecdotal accounts suggest that individuals may return to the same site repeatedly. It may occur singly but also occurs in aggregations of a dozen or more. It is said to be nocturnal, and may swim and clamber about the bottom at night looking for food as nurse sharks do. It is not known how important their camouflage patterns are for feeding in this and other wobbegongs. It is uncertain if wobbegongs take a substantial amount of prey that simply blunders into proximity while they sit on the bottom (as shown in a recent video), or if they do so by active prowling and stalking at night. Wobbegongs in the Sydney area, presumably this common species, were observed to slowly sneak up to a bait at night from a considerable distance, as if stalking potential prey like a cat, but this may not be the case with live, uninjured prey.

    Ovoviviparous, with large numbers of young per litter; one female had 37. There are anecdotal accounts that male wobbegongs from the Sydney area (and presumably this species, which is abundant there) kept in aquaria fight vigorously among themselves while courting females, and that females are bitten by males in the gill region during courtship and one clasper is inserted; in captivity, these wobbegongs copulated in July. A wild male wobbegong was said to be attracted to a female kept in a wired enclosure open to the sea and tried to enter the enclosure during the breeding season; the implication is that the female gave off an attractive stimulus, presumably a chemical pheromone but possibly some other signal.

      The spotted wobbegong feeds on bottom invertebrates, including crabs, lobsters and octopuses, bony fishes including sea bass (Serranidae), scorpionfishes (Scorpaenidae) and luderick (Kyphosidae), other nonbatoid sharks including conspecifics, and rays (batoids). Prey items may blunder right up to the mouth of a lurking wobbegong, and even nibble on its tentacles, before being caught and eaten. Apparently the short broad mouth and large broad pharynx of this and other wobbegongs aid them in sucking in prey. Video footage suggests that prey is suddenly sucked into the mouth as the pharynx expands, much as in angel sharks, but the prey is taken in front of the wobbegong rather than above it as in angel sharks (Squatinidae). The powerful jaws and big, modified anterior teeth in the symphysial region of this and other wobbegongs, with one median and two lateral rows of teeth in the lower jaw that interdigitate with two rows of enlarged lateral teeth in the upper jaw, form an effective trap to impale and kill their prey.
    Maximum about 320 cm, but with most individuals smaller, up to 150 to 180 cm. Size at birth about 21 cm. Adult males may mature at about 60 cm long.
    Interest to Fisheries
    Interest to fisheries limited, utilized for human consumption and for leather; the meat is apparently excellent eating and the skin of this and other wobbegongs is tough and makes an excellent, decorative leather with its handsome patterning. Spotted wobbegongs are commonly caught as bycatch in trawls, beach seines, trammel nets, in lobster pots and traps, and are fished with line gear (droplines) off New South Wales. Some are taken by divers with spears. These sharks are regarded as a pest by lobster fishers, because they are adept at wedging themselves into lobster pots, to eat the catch and bait.
    Interest to Fisheries
    This species is displayed in large public aquaria in Europe, the United States, and probably Australia and is viewed by divers in Australia.
    Local Names
    Japan : Wobbegong ,  Kumohada-oose ,  Kumohada-ôse .
    Extra-Australian records for this species require confirmation according to Last and Stevens (1998) and in the writer's estimation.
    Threat to humans: Much has been made of the danger of this and other wobbegongs to people, often to the exclusion of everything else of their life history. This species has been known to bite people that step on it or put their feet near its mouth, and can and will bite when molested or provoked, as when speared or caught by line or nets. These sharks can inflict severe lacerations, and there is one report of a fisher losing his foot to a spotted wobbegong that was disturbed in a rock pool. At least for this species, inflicting fatalities on people is virtually unknown and requires verification in other wobbegongs. The strong jaws and jaw musculature, and (unlike nurse sharks) large and effective impaling teeth of these wobbegongs, coupled with their tendency to hold on after biting, makes them a minor hazard to unwary explorers of tide-pools, fishermen and divers, but the sharks otherwise appear to be relatively unaggressive and sluggish when unprovoked, as when a diver views them underwater. However, placing one's limb near the head of a wobbegong may be inviting trouble, as the shark may bite either from mistaking the limb as a smaller prey item, or in response to being cornered. Several unprovoked and provoked bite incidents on people (including some on divers near the bottom and well above it) by Australian wobbegongs (probably including this species), and even a few cases of wobbegongs biting boats, have been reported in the literature, but it is often difficult to determine which species was involved or what the precise circumstances were that led to the incident. Wobbegongs of all sizes, but especially larger individuals, should be treated with due respect.

    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.
    Chen, 1963
    Compagno, 1984
    Fowler, 1941
    Garman, 1913
    Garrick & Schultz, 1963
    Grant, 1972
    Last & Stevens, 1994
    Marshall, 1965
    Matsubara, 1955
    Michael, 1993
    Nakaya & Shirai, 1984
    Ogilby & McCulloch, 1908
    Stead, 1963
    Whitley, 1940
    Powered by FIGIS