Epaulette shark- Hemiscyllium ocellatus


Illustration © Marc Dando

This small shark was named for the large white-ringed black spot on its flank behind the pectoral fin. The shark also has small dark spots on its body but not on its snout. Young sharks have dark band around their tail, and adults have a uniform light ventral tail surface.

The shark has a large, black, epaulette spot ringed with white, and inconspicuous small dark spots behind and below it. It has no white spots or reticular network.

When the shark hatches, it is about 5.9 inches [15 cm] in length. Males mature at 1.9 to 2 ft [59 to 62 cm], and females mature around 2.1 ft [64 cm]. Its maximum length is 3.5 ft [107 cm].

These sharks prefer coral reefs in shallow water and tide pools, and are sometimes barely submerged.

Southwest Pacific from New Guinea to Australia (and possible to the Solomon Islands and Malaysia).


  • Prey – Worms, crustaceans, and small fishes.

  • Reproduction – Oviparous, and their eggs hatch in approximately 120 days.

These small sharks are more active at dusk and by night, and they often feed at low tide. They crawl, clamber, and swim about, while thrashing their tail to dig their snout into the sand. They are unafraid of humans and may nip when captured.

This shark is abundant on the Great Barrier Reef, but may be threatened in New Guinea.