Banded Wobbegong, Orectolobus ornatus Click to enlarge image
A Banded Wobbegong at Broughton Island, NSW. Image: Grey McNeil
© Grey McNeil

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    It grows up to 1.1 m in length. Both sexes mature at about 80 cm.


The Banded Wobbegong is a distinctively coloured bottom-dwelling species that occurs on inshore reefs and near offshore islands.


The Banded Wobbegong can be recognised by its body shape and colouration. It has a broad, flattened head with skin flaps around the snout margin. The eyes are small and oval. The species has two dorsal fins which are positioned posteriorly on the body. The caudal fin has a long upper lobe. The anal fin is positioned so far posteriorly, it almost looks like a lower caudal fin lobe.

The species is usually golden-brown with broad dark areas, and blueish-grey spots above. It is yellowish green below. The margins of the fins often have dark spots.

The similar-looking Spotted Wobbegong occurs in temperate Australian coastal waters from southern Queensland to south-western Western Australia. It can be distinguished from the Banded Wobbegong by its colour pattern which consists of broad dark saddles and distinct circles formed by groupings of small white dots.

The Banded Carpet Shark, Orectolobus halei, looks similar to the Banded Wobbegong. Underwater, they can be difficult to tell apart. Both have saddles, spots and blotches edged in black. Orectolobus halei is a larger fish (growing to at least 2 m in length) which has the pelvic fin insertion at about the level of the first dorsal fin midpoint (versus pelvic fin insertion slightly anterior to the first dorsal midpoint in O. ornatus, which only grows to about 1.1 m in length).

Banded Wobbegong, Orectolobus ornatus
A juvenile Banded Wobbegong at the Pipe Line, Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Image: Grey McNeil
© Grey McNeil


The Banded Wobbegong is usually seen in clear water on inshore reefs and offshore islands to depths of at least 50 m. Divers most often see the Banded Wobbegong lying on the bottom during daylight hours.


It occurs along the east coast of Australia from the tropics to warm temperate waters.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Life history cycle

According to Last and Stevens, 2009 (see References), "The young are born in September or October after a 10-11 month gestation".

Danger to humans

It is generally not aggressive, however it should be considered as potentially dangerous due to its large size and sharp teeth.


  1. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4, Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes: viii, 1-250.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  3. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.
  4. Stevens, J.D. in Gomon, M.F, Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.