Welcome to Part 2 of Impossibly Beautiful Sea Life of Sydney Harbour. There was just so much to cover when it comes to local marine life, that we thought it best to do a thorough four part expose on Sydney’s most glittering and flirtatious residents – aside from the drag queens, that is!
Port Jackson Shark
Before you get yourself worked up about it, these mid-sized sharks aren’t threatening to humans. They are infact intimidated by bubble-blowing, oscillating humans in the water, so go easy on these poor guys and treat them with the respect that they deserve. They can to grow up to 1.25m in length but generally are around 70 to 90 cm. They hang out around the reefs at Bare Island and Cape Solander. However they are found in many coastal areas in Australia, from Moreton Bay in Queensland down to Tasmania and Western Australia, and come in a variety of different sub-species in different areas.
When they are young, Port Jackson sharks have a poisonous barb for self-defence on their dorsal fin. This generally grows blunt as they get older. Like most sharks they have powerful jaws, however their mouths are too small to do any damage to humans.
The scientific name for them means ”different teeth”. This is what they possess. Small and pointed front teeth and broad and flat back teeth. This is an evolutionary adaptation for eating a variety of different foods like sea urchins, marine snails, crabs, molluscs and occasionally small fish.
Although they don’t bite, be wary of their hard heads and strong bodies. When they flee in terror from you, they are powerful enough to do some damage as they swim away.
Port Jackson sharks are known as the couch potato of the shark world. Unlike other sharks, they can pump water through their own gills without moving. So they lay patiently at night time, at the bottom of the sea for their next meal.
Spotted Wobbegong Shark
The Spotted Wobbegong shark can be recognised by the skin flaps around its snout and the distinctive white, brown, green and yellow patterns on its back, making it look like a shag carpet and helping it to blend into the sea floor. The word wobbegong is Aboriginal and means ”shaggy beard”, referring to the skin flaps around the mouth.
They are about 20cm long when they are born and can grow to a gargantuan 3m in length. Wobbegongs bide their time in reefs and shallow coastal areas in Sydney Harbour, waiting for fishes, crayfish, crabs and octopuses to come their way. Mostly they stick to the southern coastal areas of Australia from southern Queensland to south west Western Australia and are endemic to Australia.
Although there have been reports in the past of divers and snorkellers getting bitten by wobbegongs, this has never been a serious injury or death. Attacks are primarily because the wobbegong has been trapped, stomped on or prodded. Leave these wonderful creatures be and let them enjoy their lives without troubles, just as you want to be left alone. How would you like it if someone came into your house and poked or stomped on you?
We’re having so much fun, that there will also be a Part 3 and 4 of Impossibly Beautiful Sea Life of Sydney Harbour. So stay tuned!
This article was originally written by Athena Dennis for Choice Charters Sydney.
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