The epaulette shark is a small member of the carpetshark family (so called for their ornate patterns similar to carpet) with a slender, flexible and elongated body. They have a tan colouration along with small black dots and are most recognised for the large black spot covered in a white margin just behind the pectoral fin. This mark is very similar to the ornamental epaulettes on a military uniform, hence the common name. This colouration also provides camouflage amongst the shallow habitat they can be found in.
Epaulette sharks are a nocturnal species and are mostly found hiding amongst corals during the day and foraging within shallow water and tide pools at night. This shark has adapted high tolerance to low oxygenated waters and has the amazing ability to crawl between pools at low tide. Generally only swimming to avoid predation, epaulette sharks are often seen walking around on their muscular pectoral fins allowing them to remain close to the seabed for capturing prey items and aiding navigation.
Upon the snout a pair of barbells provide additional sensory ability and along with other sharks electroreception is a major advantage. Epaulette sharks usually feed on worms and crabs, once prey is captured the shark will often chew its food for up to 5-10 minutes.
Epaulette sharks are an oviparous (egg laying) species. Mating generally occurs from July to December. Females can lay two eggs at a time and will do so every 14 days allowing the production of 20 eggs per year. To provide protection during development the eggs are deposited between coral heads.
Over 30 Epaulette sharks have been bred at the Oceanarium and most have been re-homed through co-operation with other UK and European aquaria.
Epaulette sharks can be viewed in the Oceanarium’s Key West display.