Carpet Sharks

The Carpet Sharks (Orectolobiformes) are an order of sharks belonging to the Elasmobranchs and are distributed throughout the oceans, although they predominate in temperate and tropical waters, being very common in the Indo-Pacific region.

Among the characteristics of this group of species, is its short snout, along with a small mouth that does not extend past the eyes. On the edge of the lower jaw they have characteristic chins. They have 5 wide gill openings, of which between the last 2 and 4 are above or past the origin of the pectoral fin. Following its head, it has prominent nasal fissures; its eyes are located generally dorsolateraly and lack a protective nictitating membrane. Just behind the eyes, they have the spiracles, of a size between small and large, which they use to make water flow through to breathe. The only exception is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) which has the spiracles located in front of its eyes. As for the fins, they are all spineless and have an anal fin and two dorsal fins. The body of the Carpet Sharks has a mottled and intricate coloring pattern that they use to camouflage themselves in the environment when resting on the sea floor.

Within the carpet sharks, we find species ranging from the 30 cm reached by the barbelthroat carpetshark (Cirrhoscyllium expolitum), to over 14 meters in the case of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). The whale shark not only holds the record for length among carpet sharks, but is the largest fish species in existence. Most carpet sharks feed on the seabed in shallow or surface waters. Their diet consists mainly of Molluscs, Crustaceans and other small creatures.

Some species reproduce oviparously, laying eggs that are released directly into the water or may be wrapped in a capsule, which they usually deposit in crevices on the sea floor. Other species are ovoviviparous and fertilized eggs are retained in the mother's body until they give birth. There are 44 species of carpet sharks, grouped into 7 families and 14 genera.