Common name: Wobbegongs



A small group of well-camouflaged bottom-dwelling ambush predators.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Wobbegongs, ORECTOLOBIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The family comprises three genera and 11 species, and all genera and 10 species are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Wobbegongs are found tropical to temperate seas of the Western Pacific, from Japan to Australia. They inhabit coral and rocky reefs in depths to 280 metres, although most species are found on the upper continental shelf.

Family Description

Species Wobbegons All species have barbels before the mouth and some have tentacular structures on other parts of the body.

Family Size

Range in length from 60 to 300 cm.

Family Feeding

Wobbegongs are sit-and-wait ambush predators, and usually feed at night on a range of fishes and invertebrates.

Family Reproduction

Some species give birth to live young and are ovoviviparous with the young hatching from eggs within the uterus. Other species are oviparous, and females lay oval-shaped eggs.

Family Remarks

Studies into visual capabilities of wobbegong sharks showed that the wobbegong visual system contains only a single class of cone photoreceptor. Cone receptors are the retinal cells used for vision under bright light conditions, whereas as rod photoreceptors are used in dim light. The researchers found that the eyesight of Western Wobbegongs and Ornate Wobbegongs was suited to both day and night vision, whereas O. maculatus and O. parvimaculatus had eyesight more suited to low light conditions. (Theiss et al. 2010)


Dianne J. Bray


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Theiss, S.M., S.P. Collin & N.S. Hart. 2010. Interspecific Visual Adaptations among Wobbegong Sharks (Orectolobidae). Brain Behav Evol 76: 248-260.

Theiss, S.M., Collin, S.P., Hart, N.S. 2011, Morphology and distribution of the ampullary electroreceptors in wobbegong sharks: implications for feeding behaviour', Marine Biology 158: 723-735.

Theiss, S.M., W.I.L. Davies, S.P. Collin, D.M. Hunt & N.S. Hart. 2012. Cone monochromacy and visual pigment spectral tuning in wobbegong sharks. Biology Letters Online first: doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0663