A wobbegong that is often confused with other wobbegongs

The Ornate wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus) is a species of shark belonging to the family Orectolobidae. The Ornate wobbegong lives in Australia and possibly other countries in the Western Pacific Ocean, but more than likely these other accounts are a false identification, and are another different species. It has been misidentified for other species of Wobbegong, like the Gulf wobbegong, but there are many clear differences.


Family: Orectolobidae – Wobbegongs

Genus: Orectolobus

Species: ornatus


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameCarpet Sharks

Family– Orectolobidae

Common NameWobbegongs




Average Size and Length: They are born around 20 cm/ 7.8 inches. Mature sharks are anywhere from 2.1-5.7 feet; however, this may be data from two different species, there is uncertainty. The maximum recorded has been 9.5 feet.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: The Ornate wobbegong was described by Charles Walter De Vis in 1883.

Teeth and Jaw: Like all wobbegongs, it has a short mouth and broad pharynx, which allow it to suck up prey more easily. The Ornate wobbegong is an ambush predator that possesses long teeth lacking lateral cusplets. There are two long and sharply pointed teeth in the upper jaw and three in the lower jaw.

Head: The head is large and flat. There are nasal barbels with a few branches. The eyes are small and oval, with larger spiracles behind them.

Denticles: There are 5 dermal lobes below and in front of each eye. The ones behind the spiracles are unbranched or only weakly branched and broad.

Tail: The tail is stout. The caudal fin has a long upper lobe that is hardly elevated above the axis of the body. There is a strong terminal lobe and subterminal notch.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Ornate wobbegong can be found in Australia. There have been records from other locations like New Guinea, Philippines, and Japan, but these are more than likely a different species. They can be found in bays, seaweed covered rock and coral reefs on the coast and around offshore islands. They can also be found around lagoons, reef flats and faces, and reef channels. They can be found in the intertidal zone to greater than 328 feet. They prefer clearer water than the Spotted wobbegong. They prefer tropical to temperate waters.

Diet: They feed on bony fish, other sharks, rays, cephalopods and crustaceans.

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

Aesthetic Identification: The Ornate wobbegong is golden brown to yellow-green, to blueish-grey in color, and has a strong variegated pattern of obvious broad dark dorsal saddles with lighter spots and conspicuous black, corrugated boarders, interspaced with lighter areas and conspicuous dark, light-centered spots. It does not have the O-rings like the Spotted wobbegong. The ventral side is a lighter yellow-greenish color. Its color pattern is designed to allow the shark to be the master of camouflage. The pattern does fade as the shark gets older. The body is very stalky and flat. It has 2 dorsal fins almost equal in size and triangular. The first dorsal fin is located over the insertion of the pectoral fins and the insertion of the second dorsal fin is above the origin of the anal fin. The anal fin is rounded and located so far posteriorly, that it looks similar to the lower caudal fin lobe. The pelvic and pectoral fins are wide and lobed.

Biology and Reproduction: The Ornate wobbegong is ovoviviparous, having at least 12 pups per litter.

A newly described species of cestode, Stragulorhynchus orectologi n. g., n. sp., has been documented as a parasite of the Ornate wobbegong.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: The Ornate wobbegong is nocturnal. They rest singularly or they rest piled in aggregations during the day in caves, under ledges and in trenches. They stalk prey at night. They remain still on the bottom, in perfect camouflage, waiting to strike and ambush prey. It snaps its powerful jaws shut on prey.

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

Ornate Wobbegong Future and Conservation: At this moment, they are considered a status of least concern. In the past they were near threatened due to being caught in several fisheries in New South Wales. They have a limited range, and are targeted for their beautiful patterned skin. A survey from May 2000 to April 2001 concluded that 5,174 total wobbegongs, including other species of wobbegong, were fished and kept in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

Ornate Wobbegong Recorded Attacks on Humans: They could be potentially dangerous due to their powerful bite if they are provoked. Their bite force is extremely strong, and they tend to latch on and not let go. They are typically docile towards humans, but again if they are provoked, they will defend themselves. Reports are known of it attacking people if they step on it or put a limb near its mouth, due to its thinking that the limb is prey. Divers sometimes pull it by the tail during its daytime resting period, which often provokes it enough to bite. The species can attack if caught with a fishing line or net, or if speared. Waders in tide-pools have been known to be aggressively bitten.

Shark Attack File has recorded 51 instances where the unprovoked attack, on a human was confirmed to be by any species of wobbegong shark in the years 1900 to 2009, none of which were fatal. Only one of these was confirmed to be by the Ornate wobbegong.