Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 471–471 | Cite as

Sharks that eat sharks: opportunistic predation by wobbegongs

  • D. M. CeccarelliEmail author
  • D. H. Williamson
Reef Site


Coral Reef Great Barrier Reef Benthic Invertebrate Predation Event Demersal Fish 
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Wobbegong sharks (family Orectolobidae) are demersal ambush predators of benthic invertebrates, cephalopods, teleost fishes, and, in larger species, occasionally other sharks (Compagno 2001; Huveneers et al. 2007). Field observations of predation events are rare on coral reefs, and trophic status is usually assigned using stomach content data from collected specimens (Huveneers et al. 2007).

At midday on 1 August 2011, while conducting an underwater visual census of fishes on the fringing reef of Great Keppel Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia), the authors encountered a tasselled wobbegong shark (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon, ~125 cm TL) lying on the substratum with the head of a brown-banded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum, ~100 cm TL) in its mouth (Fig. 1). During the 30-min observation period, neither shark moved position and the wobbegong did not further ingest the bamboo shark. We assume that it would have taken at least several more hours for the wobbegong to completely consume the bamboo shark. Generally, E. dasypogon is known to prey upon invertebrates and small demersal fish, but this unusual field observation highlights its versatility as an ambush predator. With a jaw structure that facilitates dislocation, a large gape, and sharp, rearward-pointing teeth, wobbegongs can grasp relatively large prey before swallowing it whole (Wilga et al. 2007; Prof. J.H. Choat pers. comm.).
Fig. 1

a, b Predation of Chiloscyllium punctatum by Eucrossorhinus dasypogon in the Keppel Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Photo: Tom Mannering)



These images were captured during a field trip funded by the National Environment Research Program (NERP). We thank our field assistants Tom Mannering and Andrew Cole, and Professor J. H. Choat for input on shark morphology and feeding.


  1. Compagno LJV (2001) Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1, Vol. 2. Rome, FAOGoogle Scholar
  2. Huveneers C, Otway NM, Gibbs SE, Harcourt RG (2007) Quantitative diet assessment of wobbegong sharks (genus Orectolobus) in New South Wales, Australia. ICES Journal of Marine Science 64:1272–1281Google Scholar
  3. Wilga CD, Motta PJ, Sanford CP (2007) Evolution and ecology of feeding in elasmobranchs. Integrative and Comparative Biology 41:55–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Magnetic IslandAustralia

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