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T is for Tasselled Wobbegong

Tasselled wobbegongs are not your typical sharks. These elasmobranchs lack the familiar pointy nose, sleek gray coloring and water-slicing, mid-back dorsal fin of iconic species, like the great white. They inhabit Pacific coral reefs around the coasts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

T is for Tasselled Wobbegong Illustration

Describing these sharks as unusual is an understatement. With wide bodies flattened from head to tail, wobbegongs could easily be confused for skates or rays. Branching dermal lobes and nasal barbells surround their mouths like fringe, and an intricate pattern of dark lines and splotches adorns their skin.

That pattern provides additional camouflage, as the wobbegong skulks along the seafloor waiting for its next meal. These sharks are crafty hunters, enticing prey by flicking their tails like a fishing lure. When a fish unwittingly wanders within range, the ambush predators make their move.

Tasselled Wobbegong

Blink and you might miss it. Wobbegongs strike with lightning speed—extending their jaws, sucking in prey and gulping it down whole. The sharks primarily feed on small fishes and invertebrates, but they won't pass up the chance for a larger meal if one moseys on by. In 2011, scientists even captured photographs of a wobbegong attempting to swallow a bamboo shark.

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