Epaulette sharks, named for the prominent black spot behind their pectoral fins, are unique in the shark world. They make their homes among shallow coral reefs and tidal pools around Australia, in water that is barely deep enough to cover their bodies. Although epaulette sharks can swim, they often prefer to walk along the seabed, looking for food, moving along by wriggling their bodies and pushing with their fins.
While other sharks must head for deep water, the epaulette shark exists quite happily in the oxygen-depleted shallows by slowing its breathing and heart rate.
Walking with the sharks:
- The epaulette shark is a small species, usually less than 3.3 feet (1 m) long. It has a slender body, a short head, and broad, paddle-shaped fins.
- Its coloration provides camouflage against predators, and the "epaulette" spot is thought to mimic the appearance of a large eye, serving as a distraction for some would-be attackers.
- The amount of dissolved oxygen in tidal pools can fall by 80% or more overnight. The epaulette shark can survive for hours with very little oxygen.