Bamboo sharks are slender, long-tailed sharks that live in shallow waters in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They are slow-moving, bottom-dwelling sharks and are often found in large aquaria, both private and commercial.
Scientific & Common Names
Genus: Chiloscyllium and Hemiscyllium
Common Names: Bamboo Sharks (both genera, but mostly Chiloscyllium), Longtail Carpet Sharks, Epaulette Sharks (genus Hemiscyllium)
Bamboo sharks of the family Hemiscylliidae are divided into two genera. Both are long and slender, with long tails and cylindrical bodies. The main difference involves their fins: Chiloscyllium sharks feature thinner, less muscular pectoral and pelvic fins, while those of Hemiscyllium are thicker and more heavily muscled.
These fish often have long tails, which can in some species be longer than the length of the rest of their bodies. Juveniles, especially those of Chiloscyllium, often feature dark prominent bands of color along the body. The sharks of Hemiscyllium are sometimes called “epaulette sharks” due to dark blotches on their shoulders resembling epaulettes.
Bamboo sharks are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. In many species, little is known about their reproduction, but those that do well in captivity are more well understood.
The whitespotted bamboo shark, for example, lays eggs that hatch after about 15 weeks, and the young are about six inches in length at birth. Additionally, it was reported in 2002 that a whitespotted bamboo shark at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, Michigan, was able to hatch eggs without any fertilization.
This means the shark may have experienced parthenogenesis, which is a process of reproduction without fertilization. However, it is also possible that the shark in question may have featured both male and female reproductive organs. A second potential example of parthenogenesis was observed in a bamboo shark at a British zoo in 2016.
Bamboo sharks are bottom-dwellers who scour the sea bed searching for prey, which includes invertebrates and fish. Their behavior is poorly understood in many species, though it is believed that juveniles may prefer a different habitat than adults do to their strong differences in coloration. The dark bands found on many young bamboo sharks may indicate a type of camouflage protection from predators.
Bamboo sharks are often found in tidepools, or near coral and rocky areas. Therefore they are a commonly seen fish in home and commercial aquaria, as they are relatively accustomed to smaller and more confined spaces. They also tend to be small, even in adulthood, and can accommodate temperatures similar to those of other common aquarium fish. Because of this, they are a popular fish in captivity.
There are many species of bamboo shark, and most of them are not well known enough to establish population data. However, there are a few species that are known to be Near Threatened or Vulnerable according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
Like most ocean species, these sharks are vulnerable to changing temperatures and increasing ocean acidity that is resulting from climate change.