The Lazy Wobbegong Shark
Among the many creatures that can be spotted around Lembongan and Penida, one interesting one is the Wobbegong Shark. As of late, we have been seeing more and more of these strange creatures.
This got Kipp thinking;
- Are these sharks seasonal?
- Do they migrate?
- Where does their name came from?
- How do they move around and hunt?
Let’s dive in and help Kipp answer these questions!
Are Wobbegong Sharks Seasonal?
The easy answer to the question of – are wobbegong sharks seasonal? – is no. But then why have we been seeing more of these sharks? This is the real questions and it is hard to say.
During the months of June to October, the water starts to cool. It is this cooling that also brings the molas and maybe, also the wobbegongs.
It is thought, that species of wobbegong may always return to a single site repeatedly throughout their life. Females give birth during the southern hemisphere’s spring time, (Late August to December) after a gestation period of almost a year.
So keeping this in mind, maybe the wobbegongs are coming back to the same area during the end of their gestation period. Or maybe we are just getting better at spotting them.
Do Wobbegong Sharks Migrate?
Wobbegong sharks do not migrate. They are a lazy creature, usually living in tropical waters no deeper than 218 metres. Adults most commonly are found on algae-covered rocky reefs (Manta Bay) and meadows of sea grass or sand, while juveniles are mostly found in estuaries.
Even when they hunt, they barely move and when they do, they are sluggish, as if they are dragging their flattened bodies along.
We often see them under the rock formations and coral overhangs in Manta Bay. There colouring and patterns can make it hard to spot them.
Wobbegong sharks are not one of those sharks that need to keep moving in order to breathe, like the great white does. Those sharks are known as obligate ram ventilators, and have to ram water into their mouths as they swim, which then goes out through their gills. Wobbegong sharks simply breathe by taking water inside their mouths and pumping it to their gills using the strong muscles inside their cheeks.
So even though there are times of the year that we don’t see the wobbegongs, it is likely that they are still around, maybe a bit deeper than we dive or in a better hiding place.
Where Does the Name Wobbegong Came From?
The word wobbegong is taken from the Australian Aboriginal language and means ‘shaggy beard’. This clearly relates to the whiskers around their nose and flaps of skin around their mouth and eyes, causing the shark to look like it has a beard.
There are 12 different types of wobbegong. One being the Indonesian Wobbegong, which is the one we can see here. The spotted wobbegong which is often identified as the one we get here, but is actually endemic to Australia.
Wobbegong sharks are also sometimes called carpet sharks. This is because they are bottom-dwelling sharks, which spend most of their time sitting on the bottom, under coral formations and outcrops. To add to this, is their shaggy beard that resemble the tassels at the end of a rug.
How do Wobbygong Sharks Move Around and Hunt?
Wobbygong sharks are nocturnal creatures; sleeping during the day and hunting at night. Wobbygong sharks don’t have very good eye sight. They use the flaps of skin and their beard (barbels) to sense movement. As mentioned above, they are lazy so don’t move much and relies on their food to pass by.
They are ambush predators, who use their barbels to lure prey such as bottom-dwelling fishes, smaller sharks, crabs, lobsters and even octopuses. They are very quick to strike and can swallow small creatures whole.
Despite being able to swim around, the wobbygong shark can also ‘walk’ around on it’s fins. This shark has also been seen climbing out of the water and walking on land for short distances. The wobbygong will move over land from one tide pool to another if need be, holding their breath while out of the water.