The order Orectolobiformes, or common name Carpet sharks are named so because many species resemble ornately patterned carpets. These patterns are used to camouflage them in their environments, most of them lying on the sea floor. Carpet sharks have five gill slits, two spineless dorsal fins, and a short, transverse mouth that does not extend past the eyes. They do have spiracles just beneath the eyes, except the Whale shark, which sit behind the eyes. Many species have barbels.
The largest Carpet shark is the Whale shark, extending 40 feet in length, and the smallest is about 12 inches long, the Barbelthroat Carpet shark.
Carpet sharks are found in all the oceans of the world but mainly in tropical and temperate waters. They are most common in the western Indo-Pacific region and are usually found in relatively deep water.
Most carpet sharks feed on the seabed in shallow to medium-depth waters, detecting and picking up mollusks and crustaceans and other small creatures. The Wobbegongs are ambush predators, lying hidden on the seabed until prey approaches. One has been observed swallowing a Bamboo shark whole. The Whale shark is a filter feeder drawing in water through its very wide mouth and sifting the plankton.
The methods of reproduction of Carpet sharks varies. Some species are oviparous and lay eggs which may be released directly into the water or may be enclosed in horny egg cases. Some female sharks have been observed to push egg cases into crevices. Other species are ovoviviparous and the fertilized eggs are retained in the mother’s oviduct.
There are 7 families belonging to the order Orectolobiformes with 30-43 living species of sharks.
Parascylliidae: Collared Carpet Sharks (Gill, 1862) (8 species)
Brachaeluridae: Blind Sharks (2 species)
Orectolobidae: Wobbegong Sharks (Gill, 1896) (12 species)
Hemiscylliidae: Longtail Carpetsharks or Bamboo Sharks (Gill, 1862, J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837) (16 species)
Ginglymostomatidae: Nurse Sharks (Gill, 1862) (4 species)
Stegostomatidae: Zebra Sharks (Gill, 1862) (1 species)
Rhincodontidae: Whale Sharks (J. P. Müller & Henle, 1839) (1 species)