Japanese Wobbegong

A master of disguise

The Japanese wobbegong (Orectolobus japonicus) is a shark belonging to the family Orectolobidae, or wobbegong family, found in the tropical western Pacific Ocean from Japan and Korea to Viet Nam. Like other members of its family, they are nocturnal and are strong ambush predators.


Family: Orectolobidae – Wobbegongs

Genus: Orectolobus 

Species: japonicus


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles

Order–   Orectolobiformes

Common NameCarpet Sharks

Family– Orectolobidae

Common NameWobbegongs




Average Size and Length: They are born between 21-23 cm/ 8.3-9.1 inches. Mature females on average measure less than 3.3 feet. The maximum recorded has been greater than 3.5 feet.

Teeth and Jaw: The large mouth is positioned ahead of the eyes, almost at the end of the head. There are furrows on the lower jaw extending from the mouth corners and along the jaw median. The front teeth on both the upper and lower jaws are large and fang like. Moving around the jaw, there are more sharp teeth, but they are not a long.

Head: The head is broad and wide. The nasal barbels are branched. The spiracles are behind the eyes and are larger than the eyes.

Denticles: There are 5 dermal lobes below, and in front of the eyes on each side of the head.

Tail: The caudal fin with its upper lobe is hardly elevated above the body axis. There is a strong terminal lobe and subterminal notch but no ventral lobe.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Japanese wobbegong can be found in the northwest Pacific in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan Island, and Vietnam (43°N – 6°N, 103°E – 140°E). There was a record in the Philippines, but that is questionable. They can be found inshore in tropical environments around rocky areas and coral reefs. They have been recorded down to 656 feet.

Diet: They mainly eat benthic fish. They have also eaten skates, shark egg cases, shrimp and cephalopods.

Ram-Suction Index: They are high on the RSI, sucking in and impaling prey on their large teeth.

Aesthetic Identification: The Japanese wobbegong has an obvious color pattern of broad, dark dorsal saddles with spots and blotches and dark corrugated edges. These edges are dark but not black They are separated by lighter areas with dark, broad reticular lines. There are 2 spineless dorsal fins similar in size (the first slightly larger than the second one), that originate behind the pelvic fin bases. The pectoral and pelvic fins are large and rounded. There is an anal fin.

Biology and Reproduction: The Japanese wobbegong is ovoviviparous. They can have up to 20-23 pups per litter. In Japan in captivity, they are born from March to May in spring. The gestation period is one year.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: The Japanese wobbegong is nocturnal and are rarely seen by divers. Like other family members, they are perfectly camouflaged with their environment, which makes them formidable ambush predators.

Speed: More than likely slow like its family members. They probably use their large pectoral and pelvic fins to crawl across the bottom.

Japanese Wobbegong Future and Conservation: They are not evaluated. In Japan, there are reports of the Japanese wobbegong being used for human consumption. They have been kept in aquaria in Japan and the United States. Like other members of its family, their skin may be used for leather.

Japanese Wobbegong Recorded Attacks on Humans: They are rarely seen by divers, but they should be regarded as potentially dangerous. Because of its powerful jaws and dentation. Other members of its family have been recorded in several unprovoked attacks, so one should always exercise caution and respect these sharks.