Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum (Bonnaterre 1788)

Other Names: Blind Shark, Itar Shark

An Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum, at North West Island, southern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, November 2014. Source: Sascha Schultz / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

This small slender shark with a large black ocellus on the shoulder and irregular spots on the body is often seen foraging over reef flats.
Very cute video of a baby Epaulette Shark hatching from its egg capsule.
An Epaulette Shark hunting at low tide in the lagoon at Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.
Epaulette Sharks in an aquarium.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Hemiscyllium ocellatum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1973

Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum (Bonnaterre 1788)

More Info


Endemic to the Great Barrier Reef, from about the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula to the southern extremity of the Great Barrier Reef at the Capricorn Group. The northernmost record is from Sunday Island (11°56’ S, 143°12’ E), a small islet situated less than 3 km from the mainland coast. 
Inhabits sheltered lagoons and shallow coral reef flats, most commonly seen at night or in daylight during low spring tides, often in tide pools or sheltering under rocks.


Females lay two eggs capsules from August to December, depositing them among coral at night. They may produced eggs capsules every 14 days. The pups hatch after about 120 days 14 to 16 cm TL. 
The Epaulette Shark lives in coral reef lagoons and on shallow coral reef flats. At night during low tides, individuals may encounter short periods of oxygen deprivation and high levels of CO2, especially. Heinrich et al. (2014) showed that the species was remarkably tolerant to short periods (hours) of hypoxia and elevated CO2 levels.


Caught in small numbers for the commercial aquarium trade.


The specific name is from the Latin ocellatum (= eyed) in reference to the conspicuous eye-like ocellus on each side behind the gill openings.

Species Citation

Squalus ocellatus Bonnaterre 1788. Tableau Encyclopédique et Méthodique des trois Règnes de la Nature. Ichthyologie: 8. Type locality: South Sea (as La Mer du Sud).


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum (Bonnaterre 1788)


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Dudgeon, C.L., Corrigan, C., Yang, L., Allen, G.R., Erdmann, M.V., Fahmi, Sugeha, H.Y., White, W.T., Naylor, G.J.P. 2020. Walking, swimming or hitching a ride? Phylogenetics and biogeography of the walking shark genus HemiscylliumMarine and Freshwater Research,  https://doi.org/10.1071/MF19163

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Heinrich DDU, Rummer JL, Morash AJ, Watson S-A, Simpfendorfer CA, Heupel MR, Munday PL (2014) A product of its environment: the epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) exhibits physiological tolerance to elevated environmental CO2. Conservation Physiology 2(1): doi:10.1093/conphys/cou047 PDF

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37013014

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-40 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:107 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map