Defining Features[edit | edit source]

Orectolobiformes, also known as "Carpet Sharks" have prominent nasoral (grooves connecting the nostrils to the mouth) grooves, nasal barbels, two dorsal fins, an anal fin, and small terminal or subterminal mouths. They have common characteristics of flange on the teeth and nasal barbels. These sharks are elongated and tubular with a short and rounded snout. The head is narrow with small oval eyes and a small inferior mouth. Barbels are absent on the throat.

Habitat and Range[edit | edit source]

With a few exceptions, most of the species are found in the shallow waters of the continental shelves. They are often bottom dwellers in rocky areas or coral reefs. Many of the species live in the waters off of southern Australia. They live in temperate inshore waters from eastern Victoria, Tasmania, and around the south of the country to southwestern western Australia. They live in water that is between 200 and 435 m in the epipelagic zone at the surface.

Fisheries Conservation and Concern[edit | edit source]

Many members of Orectolobiformes are common bycatch, and some are targeted by small fisheries. In the past few years there have been localized fisheries for whale sharks in the Philippines, India, and Tiawan. The whale shark has been protected in many countries.

Closest Relatives[edit | edit source]

[Carcharhiniformes + Lamniformes]

Example Species in Orectolobiformes[edit | edit source]

Whale Shark[edit | edit source]

Rhincodon typus[edit | edit source]

Defining Features: The whale shark is enormous and reportedly capable of reaching a maximum length of about 18 meters. Most specimens that have been studied, however, weighed about 15 tons and averaged about 12 meters in length. The body coloration is distinctive. Light vertical and horizontal stripes form a checkerboard pattern on a dark background, and light spots mark the fins and dark areas of the body. The head is broad and flat, with a somewhat truncated snout and an immense mouth. Its large mouth is well adapted to filter feeding and contains more than 300 rows of small, pointed teeth in each jaw. Several prominent ridges of hard tissue, often called keels, extend horizontally along each side of the body to the tail. There are five large gill slits on each side of the head region, just above the pectoral fins. Special spongy tissue inside the gill slits that is supported by the shark’s gill arches forms a unique filter used in feeding. The meshlike tissue of the internal gill slits acts like a sieve, catching plankton and other small organisms A short, rudimentary sensory organ called a barbel hangs from each nostril. The shark has a large front dorsal (top) fin and smaller rear dorsal and anal fins. The whale shark's flattened head sports a blunt snout above its mouth with short barbels protruding from its nostrils. Its back and sides are gray to brown with white spots among pale vertical and horizontal stripes, and its belly is white. Its two dorsal fins are set rearward on its body, which ends in a large dual-lobbed caudal fin (or tail).

Range & Habitat: Whale sharks inhabit warm waters around the world. They are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from the coast of New York in the United States to central Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. In the eastern Atlantic they occur from the coasts of Senegal, Mauritania, and Cape Verde to the Gulf of Guinea. Whale sharks also inhabit the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific. They have appeared off the coast of South Africa and in the Red Sea, as well as near Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia, and Hawaii. In the eastern Pacific they can be found from southern California in the United States to northern Chile.

IUCN Concern: The whale shark was previously listed as Vulnerable, but the worrying results of a recent study prompted officials to upgrade the species’ rating to Endangered.

Blue-Gray Carpet Shark[edit | edit source]

Brachaelurus Colcloughi[edit | edit source]

Defining Features: This carpetshark is a stocky fish with eyes positioned toward the top of its wide, flattish head. It has a blunt snout, and a pair of long fleshy projections known as “Barbels” hang down either side of its small mouth, in front of the nostrils. It has large pectoral fins, and dorsal fins placed far back on the body, with the first being larger than the second. Young sharks have distinct black markings on a white background, a pattern that fades to brownish in adults. The average size is 40 to 50 cm, with a maximum recorded length of 85 cm.

Range & Habitat:This species is found along the continental shelf of the northeastern coast of Australia, in New South Wales and in Queensland, including on the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the few sharks that occurs mainly around an urban area . It is usually observed in shallow, inshore waters, often at around 5 m and regularly up to 100 m deep, though it has been recorded down to 217 m. During the day it hides in reefs, under rocky ledges and in caves, and has also been seen hanging around shipwrecks.

IUCN Concern: They've been labeled as vulnerable on IUCN RED List. They've had a decreasing population trend.

References[edit | edit source]

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