Carpet sharks, or wobbegons, are members of the whisker shark family and include 11 species of predatory fish. They successfully live and hunt in the benthic layer of seas and oceans due to their flattened body and unique camouflage properties. In this article, we will look at the features of carpet sharks’ appearance, their behavior, and their hunting methods.
Carpet sharks have a massive compressed body from above, a large rounded head, and small eyes that are almost invisible. The nostrils, connected to the corners of the mouth by a deep groove, have a fleshy tendril, which is the organ of touch. The teeth are shallow, multi-toothed and multifunctional – from holding slippery prey to grinding and “breaking” shells of crustaceans and mollusks. The dorsal fins of wobbegongs are small, strongly displaced towards the caudal part of the body. The pectoral and pelvic fins are well developed and rounded. The caudal fin is narrow and long, with a poorly developed lower lobe.
One of the most unique features of carpet sharks is their camouflage coloration. It is spotted, protective, and allows them to remain invisible when they are “in ambush.” The pattern on the back and fins form sentimental “daisies.” This coloration and additional skin growths on the body contribute to the unique properties of these predators to camouflage among natural shelters when hunting.
Carpet sharks hunt from ambush, utilizing the excellent camouflage properties of their bodies. Approaching prey is grabbed with a sharp rush, using the cheek pump (creating a vacuum in the mouth by inflating the cheeks) to capture the prey. The diet of carpet sharks includes bony and small cartilaginous fish, cephalopod mollusks (squid, octopus, cuttlefish), various crustaceans – from shrimps to crabs and lobsters, as well as sea snakes, worms and other invertebrates.
Carpet sharks are very shy and always try to hide. They never attack divers, but if you jam the bearded shark in a cave and leave him no way out, then defending himself, he can claw and easily bite through a wetsuit. It is said that in this case it is almost impossible to tear it off, because wobbegongs breathe very well with their mouths closed, and they have several rows of teeth.
Among wobbegongs there are small ones barely reaching a meter in length, there are also giants (spotted wobbegong) exceeding the three-meter mark in length. These predators are not dangerous to humans, but with provocative behavior (e.g., if you carelessly approach or step on the ambush site), they can bite you palpably. Wounds are not fatal, but very painful and can cause various infections and inflammations.
Carpet sharks, or wobbegongs, are masters of camouflage and ambush hunting. Their unique coloration and abilities allow them to successfully reside and hunt in the benthic layer of the seas and oceans. Despite their shyness, carpet sharks can be dangerous to humans, so caution should be exercised when diving.