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Epaulette shark aka walking shark

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Epaulette Shark, Walking Shark, Kri Island, Raja Ampat
Epaulette Shark @Nick Hulley

What are Epaulette sharks?

Epaulette shark aka walking shark is a small slender carpet shark. Closest relatives are bamboo sharks and they have similarities how they look. Epaulette sharks gets their name of the shoulder pads their have in their skin pattern, Epaulettes are ornamental shoulder pieces or badges, often worn on military or formal uniforms. They has many names, most commonly known as walking shark. This name come from their ability to walk in shallow water using their fins to change their habitats from puddle to puddle while hunting crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.

Where to find these creatures ?

Epaulette sharks can be found in shallow waters in West papua in Raja Ampat region, Indonesia and Australia. You can spot these creatures from the Soul scuba divers jetty in low tide. Best time to spot walking sharks are in the dusk and sunset time when Epaulette shark is most active. In low tide you can see them sandy, grassy areas where they camouflage into seagrass and hiding in near by the corals and seagrass beds. Best time to see them are at night, so prepare your head torch and walk on our jetty to find these beautiful creatures. Epaulette sharks are near threatened species sense their living habitats are slowly disappearing. Read more about saving corals reef in our previous blog post


Epaulette sharks reproduce through internal fertilization, with males using specialized pelvic fins to transfer sperm to females. Females then lay small, leathery eggs that are attached to rocks or other surfaces in shallow waters.

Incubation: The eggs take around 120-150 days to hatch, with the baby sharks still inside their egg casing when they emerge.

Juvenile stage: After hatching, the baby sharks are around 15cm long and spend their first few months hiding in rocky crevices or coral reefs. They are nocturnal and feed on small invertebrates like crabs and shrimp.

Adult stage: As they grow, epaulette sharks become more active and are able to walk on their fins to move over shallow reefs during low tide. They can grow up to 70cm long and feed on a variety of small fish and invertebrates.

Lifespan: Epaulette sharks have a relatively long lifespan for a small shark species, living up to 20 years in the wild.

Overall, epaulette sharks have a fascinating life cycle and unique adaptations that have allowed them to thrive in shallow reef environments.

Walking Shark, Epaulette Shark, Raja Ampat, Kri Island
Walking shark at Soul scuba jetty @Nick Hulley


Epaulette sharks play an important role in their ecosystem and provide several benefits. Here are a few examples:

Maintaining ecological balance: As predators, epaulette sharks help to control populations of smaller fish and invertebrates, which helps to maintain ecological balance in their local ecosystems.

Promoting tourism: Epaulette sharks are a popular attraction for ecotourism, especially in areas where they are found in large numbers. This can provide economic benefits to local communities through tourism-related activities and jobs.

Scientific research: Epaulette sharks are also studied by scientists to learn more about their unique adaptations, such as their ability to walk on their fins and survive in low-oxygen environments. This research can help us better understand the evolution and adaptation of species in the ocean.

Biological insights: Epaulette sharks are known to be able to tolerate low-oxygen conditions and have unique metabolic adaptations. These characteristics make them useful models for scientific research on human health conditions such as stroke and heart disease.

Overall, epaulette sharks are an important part of their ecosystem and provide a range of benefits to humans through tourism and scientific research.

Epaulette Shark, Soul Scuba Divers, Raja Ampat, Walking Shark
Epaulette Shark, House reef Soul scuba divers @Nick Hulley

species which we have in raja ampat

There are a few different species of epaulette sharks that can be found in the Raja Ampat region, located in the Coral Triangle of Indonesia. Here are some of the species that have been documented in this area:

  1. Hemiscyllium freycineti: Also known as the Freycinet's epaulette shark, this species is found in shallow reef habitats and can be recognized by its brown or gray coloration with dark spots and stripes.

  2. Hemiscyllium hallstromi: This species, also known as the Hallstrom's epaulette shark, is similar in appearance to Freycinet's epaulette shark but has fewer and smaller dark spots on its body.

  3. Hemiscyllium halmahera: This species, also known as the Halmahera epaulette shark, has a distinct pattern of large, irregular spots on its body that are brown or reddish-brown in color.

  4. Hemiscyllium michaeli: This species, also known as the Coral Sea epaulette shark, is found in deeper waters and has a darker coloration with lighter spots and stripes.

  5. Hemiscyllium ocellatum: This species, also known as the Epaulette shark or the Spotted epaulette shark, has a distinctive pattern of large, dark spots on its body and is found in shallow reef habitats.

Learn more about Sharks SSI Shark Ecology speciality course available in Soul scuba divers dive center.

Picture credit Nick Hulley @hulleyvisuals

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