Epaulettes: The Walking Sharks


Photo credit: Diveplanit

Luca Berberich’s long-standing interest in the natural world is being brought to the Talawanda Tribune in their series: Luca B. the Science G. Today they’re here to talk about the mysterious shark that walks on land… the Epaulette Shark!

Epaulette Sharks, or Hemiscyllium ocellatum, are an enigmatic species of shark that are known for using their pectoral and pelvic fins (the fins on the sides of their body) like legs to walk across land or across coral reefs. They are long-tailed carpet sharks that can withstand extremely hypoxic (or low-oxygen) conditions, especially in tidal pools (little pockets of seawater in between the ocean and the land — think of puddles) where they often hang out. 

Epaulettes primarily feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as crabs, shrimp, and small fish. They are slender and look almost like eels, typically around 27 to 35 inches in length. They have a large black ocellus (a spot that resembles an eye) above their pectoral fin.

Epaulette Sharks are bottom-dwelling, and live in warm, shallow waters. They are endemic (native) to the Great Barrier Reef, a massive coral reef on the north-east coast of Australia that is inhabited by over 1,500 species of fish, 400 types of coral, and 4,000 types of mollusc. 

These little guys are fascinating, and represent the potential for marine animals to transfer to land— maybe not anytime soon, but perhaps one day.