Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei Click to enlarge image
Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei. Image: Tony Strazzari
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    halei
    Genus
    Orectolobus
    Family
    Orectolobidae
    Order
    Orectolobiformes
    Class
    Chondrichthyes
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    It grows to at least 2.06m in length with unconfirmed reports stating that the species can reach 2.9 m in length.

Introduction

The Gulf Wobbegong is a distinctively coloured species. It has dark corrugated saddles that are bordered by rows of small dark spots.


What do Gulf Wobbegongs look like?

Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei
Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei. Image: Harry Rosenthal
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Identification

The species has several branched dermal lobes on the head margin. There are two tubercles above the eyes and a white spot behind both spiracles. The Gulf Wobbegong have extremely ornate and variegated, yellowish to brown grey dorsally with darker corrugated saddles with a distinct margin bordering the saddles. They have been until recently confused with the Ornate Wobbegoing, Orectolobus ornatus, a smaller relative that is endemic to the Eastern Australian Coast.

Orectolobus halei was originally described in 1940 by the Australian Museum's fish curator Gilbert Whitley, as a subspecies (Orectolobus ornatus halei). Charlie Huveneers' 2006 paper redescribed the species and elevated it to full species status.


Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei
Gulf Wobbegong, Orectolobus halei. Image: Graham McMartin
© CC BY-NC 4.0

Where do Gulf Wobbegongs live?

Distribution

Gulf Wobbegongs live in temperate and some subtropical waters from Southport Southern Queensland to Norwegian Bay Western Australia and south to Flinders Island Bass Strait. Found coastal and inshore on the continental shelf to about 100m. They are found in macroalgal covered reefs, coral reef lagoons, reef flats, faces and channels. The Gulf Wobbegong is a nocturnal species that rests in caves, under ledges or on large sponges during the day.

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



What do Gulf Wobbegongs eat and what is their lifecycle?

Feeding and diet

They eat small fish and other small sharks.

Life history

Gulf Wobbegongs reach maturity at about 16 years of age. The males mature at 168-181cm TL and females mature at 160-187cm. They are viviparious (give birth to live young) and usually produce a litter of 12-47 pups after a gestation period of 10-11 months.


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References

  1. Ebert, D.A., Fowler, S., Compagno, L., 2016. Sharks of the World, Wild Nature Press, pages 1-528
  2. Bray, D.J. 2019, Orectolobus halei in Fishes of Australia, accessed 05 Aug 2022, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3268
  3. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  4. Huveneers, C. 2006. Redescription of two species of wobbegongs (Chondrichthys: Orectolobidae) with elevation of Orectolbus halei Whitley 1940 to species level. Zootaxa. 1284: 29-51.
  5. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.