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The Hemiscylliidae are a family of sharks in the order Orectolobiformes, commonly known as longtail carpet sharks and sometimes as bamboo sharks. They are found in shallow waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific.

Temporal range: Upper Jurassic–recent[1]
Chiloscyllium griseum Oceanopolis.jpg
Grey bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium griseum)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Hemiscylliidae
T. N. Gill, 1862

They are relatively small sharks, with the largest species reaching no more than 121 cm (48 in) in adult body length. They have elongated, cylindrical bodies, with short barbels and large spiracles. As their common name suggests, they have unusually long tails, which exceed the length of the rest of their bodies. They are sluggish fish, feeding on bottom-dwelling invertebrates and smaller fish.[1]

Genera and speciesEdit

Genus Species Type species Synonyms Temporal range
Chiloscyllium J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837 7 Scyllium plagiosum Bennett, 1830 Synchismus Gill, 1862 Cenomanian–Recent[2]
Hemiscyllium J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837 9 Squalus ocellatus Bonnaterre, 1788 Thanetian–Recent[2]


This genus is distinguished by a relatively long snout with subterminal nostrils. The eyes and supraorbital ridges are hardly elevated. The mouth is closer to the eyes than to the tip of the snout, with lower labial folds usually connected across the chin by a flap of skin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are thin and not very muscular. No black hood on the head or large black spot on the side is present[3] (though juveniles often are strongly marked with dark spots/bars).


This genus is confined to tropical waters off Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, but an individual from this genus, possibly representing an undescribed species, has been photographed at the Seychelles.[4] They have short snouts with the nostrils placed almost at the tip, and well-elevated eyes and supraorbital ridges. The mouth is closer to the tip of the snout than the eyes, and lacks the connecting dermal fold across the chin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are thick and heavily muscular. Either a black hood on the head or a large black spot on the sides of the body is present.[3]

Nine recognized species are in this genus:[5][6]

Fossil taxaEdit

Hemiscylliidae fossil from late Cretaceous


Hemiscylliid sharks are sometimes kept in home aquaria.[9] Species from this family are ideal aquarium sharks because their natural habitats are tidepools, coral beds, and around boulders.[9] This predisposition towards relatively confined spaces helps them adapt better to home aquaria compared to other species.[9] Their generally small size for sharks and their preference for water temperatures comparable to those enjoyed by other common aquarium fish have also endeared them to marine aquarists.[9] Multiple species of hemiscylliids have been successfully induced to breed in captivity.[9]

Full-sized adult epaulette sharks are most successfully housed in tanks at or exceeding 680 litres (180 US gal), while adult bamboo sharks require more space and are known to do well in 910-litre (240 US gal) aquaria.[9] Hemiscyliids in captivity are provided artificial caves for them to hide. However, unstable tank decor has been known to cause fatal injuries when the structure is disturbed by the sharks' digging behavior.


The British press on February 10, 2016 reported that a bamboo shark at Great Yarmouth’s Sea Life Centre was pregnant with two fertilized eggs. It is known that the shark has not come into contact with any other bamboo sharks since 2013. Although parthenogenesis is observed in a small number of species, this is such a rare occurrence in this species that it became a news story.[10]


  1. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Hemiscylliidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
  2. ^ a b Sepkoski, J. (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera (Chondrichthyes entry)". Bulletins of American Paleontology. 364: 560. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30.
  3. ^ a b Compagno, Leonard J.V. (1984). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization. ISBN 92-5-101384-5.
  4. ^ Debelius, H. (1993). Indian Ocean Tropical Fish Guide. Aquaprint Verlags GmbH. ISBN 3-927991-01-5
  5. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). Species of Hemiscyllium in FishBase. April 2013 version.
  6. ^ a b Allen, G.R., Erdmann, M.V. & Dudgeon, C.L. (2013). "Hemiscyllium halmahera, a new species of Bamboo Shark (Hemiscylliidae) from Indonesia" (PDF). aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology. 19 (3): 123–136.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b Allen, Gerald R. and Erdmann, Mark V. (2008). "Two new species of bamboo sharks (Orectolobiformes: Hemiscylliidae) from Western New Guinea" (PDF). Aqua (Miradolo Terme). 13 (3–4): 93–108.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Allen, Gerald R. and Dudgeon, Christine L. (2010). "Hemiscyllium michaeli, a new species of Bamboo Shark (Hemiscyllidae) from Papua New Guinea". Aqua International Journal of Ichthyology. 16 (1): 19–30.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ a b c d e f Michael, Scott W. (March 2004). "Sharks at Home". Aquarium Fish Magazine. pp. 20–29.
  10. ^ Martin, Sean (2016-02-10) A miracle? Female bamboo shark set for VIRGIN BIRTH at British zoo. Express.co.uk. Retrieved on 2017-03-08.