Arabian Carpet Shark (Chiloscyllium arabicum)
Here at Blue planet Aquarium we have a large variety of sharks, from our giant Sand Tiger sharks to our smaller Arabian sharks. These smaller sharks are often overlooked, as they can be found hiding in crevices along the reef, but do not be fooled by there illusive habits, they are excellent predators.
Arabian Carpet sharks are identifiable by their light brown appearance. They have a round snout with a low jaw ideal for feeding off the reef floor. The dorsal fins are spineless and equal-sized and they have a long tail. These features allow flexibility around the reef and to hide effectively from potential predators. These like many sharks have five pairs of gill slits. However carpet sharks like many bottom feeders have advanced spiracles located below the silvery eyes. These spiracles are modified gill slits that allow the shark to breathe while stationary and enables the species to happily lie motionless in the water, avoiding predation and conserving energy. This adaptation has become recessive in many open water sharks. Arabians grow to four feet in length, this can take around three to five years depending on food availability.
They are primarily found in tropical lagoons, in and around coral reefs and mangroves of the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean. In the Arabian Peninsula habitat loss and commercial fishing has caused a drastic decline in the shark population within the last decade. The Arabian carpet shark is classified as a near threatened species, meaning that their wild population is in decline. Despite this there are no current conservation protection policies in place.
At the aquarium we have nine mature adults helping us boost the species numbers, by allowing them to reproduce naturally in a predator free environment and replicating cracks and crevices similar to a reef to hide in.
Our active adults mate throughout the year. The females are oviparous meaning they produce egg cases. Commonly known as mermaid purses, these cases are made of collagen and often have lots of tendrils that help it to attach to rocks when deposited. The eggs often contain a yolk, which if fertilised will develop into a juvenile shark after 70-80 days. These newly hatched sharks are only 8cm in length and are ready to hunt. Juveniles look very different to adults as they are black and white, with markings unique to the individual. As they continue to grow their markings change, until adult size.
You can see our baby sharks during your visit, they are usually at the end of the tunnel! Once the juveniles reach six months old we target train them ready to enter our larger display named Coral Cave. These captive reared sharks will eventually re-enter our main tank and continue the circle of life.
Blog by: Abigail Green-Morris, Aquarist at Blue Planet Aquarium and Donovan Lewis, Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium.