Featured Species: Whitespotted Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum)

This week’s featured species is one of my husband’s favorite shark species, and therefore one that is very special to me, too! (It’s not often my husband admits he likes sharks; he thinks the ocean is boring- GASP! So when he said this was one of his favorite species I almost cried!) The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) is a small member of the Hemiscylliidae family (Ebert, Fowler, & Dando, 2015). They have a slender bodies that are banded with brown or tan stripes. Juveniles are typically dark with white or bluish spots and as they mature, they lighten in color, revealing their alternating light and dark bans (Ebert, Fowler, & Dando, 2015). Like many bottom dwelling species of elasmobranchs, they have a large spiracle just behind their eye. This spiracle allows them to pass oxygenated water over their gills while resting on the sea floor.

Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2015 January 1). Resting Whitespotted Bamboo Shark [Digital Image]. Original Content.

The whitespotted bamboo shark is a nocturnal hunter along coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific (Compagno, 2001). During the day, they can be found resting in crevices along the reef. But at night, they hunt along the sea floor and rocky reef crevices for small fishes,  polychaetes worms, and crustaceans (Herman, Hovestadt-Euler, & Hovestadt, 1992). Their teeth have a broad base relative to their short central cusp, and each cusp has two lateral cusplets (Herman, Hovestadt-Euler, & Hovestadt, 1992). Their morphology is relatively uniform throughout both the upper and lower jaws.

Textplate 2. – Chiloscyllium plagiosum (BENNETT, 1830) Female 22 cm 11, Philippines Upper and lower jaws X 30 (Herman, Hovestadt-Euler, & Hovestadt, 1992).


Much of what we know about the whitespotted bamboo shark’s reproductive biology comes from captive specimens. These sharks survive very well in captivity, living up to 25 years; they are also prolific breeders in aquarium settings (Michael, 1993; Kyne & Burgess, 2006). Like the Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) and other members of Hemiscylliidae, the whitespotted bamboo shark is oviparous. This means the females lay eggs instead of giving birth to live pups. Females deposit two egg cases at a time, six to seven days apart during the spring and summer months (Masuda, 1998). During the breeding season, a single female can lay approximately 26 eggs (Miki, 1994). The pups then gestate in the egg cases for 110 to 135 days (Miki, 1994; Masuda, 1998). Inside their protective cases, they are attached to a yolk sac that provides them with essential nutrients while they develop. Once the yolk sac is depleted, the pups break free of their egg cases as fully formed little sharks.



Houston Zoo (Videographer). (2013 Nov 4). Baby Whitespotted Bamboo Sharks [Video Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/

And a few months later… the babies have arrived!!


Houston Zoo (Videographer). (2014 Feb 28). First Whitespotted Bamboo Sharks Born at Zoo! [Video Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/


Currently, the whitespotted bamboo shark is listed as a Near Threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These little sharks face several threats that need to be closely monitored and evaluated:

  • Fishing Industry – The whitespotted bamboo shark is landed and utilised for human consumption. It is regularly taken in India, Thailand, China, Borneo, and the Philippines (Compagno, 2001; Manjaji, 2002; Compagno, Last, Stevens, & Alava, 2005).
  • Aquarium Trade – Data of wild capture for the aquarium trade is insufficient to adequately assess the risk to the whitespotted bamboo shark. However, the aquarium industry should encourage self regulation, drawing only from sustainable sources. This is a species that breeds well in captivity; therefore, trade in captive bred specimens over wild caught specimens should be made the preference (Michael, 1993; Kyne & Burgess, 2006).
  • Habitat Loss and Degradation – The whitespotted bamboo shark’s habitat is exceedingly threatened by dynamite fishing, pollution, and terrestrial runoff. Extensive degradation and destruction has already occurred in coral reefs throughout Southeast Asia, more than any other coral reef ecosystem. It is likely that these pressures will continue to increase in the future and must be closely monitored as available habitats are reduced (Kyne & Burgess, 2006).
Burke, L. (Author). (2011). Reefs at Risk from Integrated Local Threats (by Area of Reef) [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.wri.org/

Shark Stats

Authority: Bennet, 1830

Family: Hemiscylliidae; 15 species

Length: Up to 3.1 feet (0.95 m)

Weight: Up to 5 lbs (2.4 kg)

Habitat: Inshore tropical reefs

Depth: Surface to 59 feet (18 m)

Reproduction: Oviparous

Gestation: 3 – 5 months

Litter Range: Females deposit 2 eggs every 6 – 7 days during the breeding season; averaging in 26 eggs per female

Home Range: Tropical Indo-West Pacific Ocean

Diet: Small benthic bony fishes, polychaetes worms, and crustaceans

IUCN Status: Near Threatened

(Miki, 1994; Masuda, 1998; Chen, Chen, Liu,  & Wang, 2007; Wai, Yeung, Lam, Leung, Dudgeon, & Williams, 2012; Ebert, Fowler, & Dando, 2015)


Thank you so much for taking this journey with me! These past two years have been so incredible and I am so humbled that I have been able to share my passion with all of you. Thank you so much for all your love and support of marine life, especially the sharks and rays! Let’s make the next 100 posts even more awesome than the first 100!!

Thanks so much for checking out the Whitespotted Bamboo Shark! If you missed last week’s featured species, please be sure to check out the acrobatic Spinner Shark! If there is a species of elasmobranch you’d love to know more about, leave me a comment or send me a message! I would love to do a feature on your favorite species. So connect with me on Instagram and Facebook for even more elasmo fun!

The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!

Conservation legislation needs public support in order to become law and help protect the environment and wildlife. Tell your representatives that you care about environmental and wildlife conservation.  It only takes a moment to make a change that will last a lifetime. Until next time finactics!


Featured Image Source

Perrine, D. (Photographer). (2017). Whitespotted Bamboo Shark [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/66/2017/05/Chiloscyllium-plagiosum-02.jpg

Literature Cited

Chen, W. K., Chen, P. C., Liu, K. M., & Wang, S. B. (2007). Age and growth estimates of the whitespotted bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium plagiosum, in the northern waters of Taiwan. Zoological studies46(1), 92-102.

Compagno, L. J. (2001). Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date, vol 2. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). FAO species catalogue for fishery purposes1, viii.

Compagno, L. J. V., Last, P. R., Stevens, J. D., & Alava, M. N. R. (2005). Checklist of Philippine chondrichthyes. CSIRO Marine Laboratories Report243, 1-103.

Herman, J., Hovestadt-Euler, M., & Hovestadt, D. C. (1992). Contributions to the study of the comparative morphology of teeth and other relevant ichthyodorulites in living supraspecific taxa of Chondrichthyan fishes. Part A. Selachii. 4. Order: Orectolobiformes-Families Brachaeluridae, Ginglymostomatidae, Hemiscylliidae, Orectolobidae, Parascylliidae, Rhiniodontidae, Stegostomatidae. Order: Pristiophoriformes-Family: Pristiophoridae. Order: Squatiniformes-Family: Squatinidae. Bulletin van het Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen. Biologie= Bulletin de l’Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique. Biologie.

Kyne, P.M. & Burgess, G.H. (2006). Chiloscyllium plagiosumThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/60222/12325334

Manjaji, B. M. (1997, July). New records of elasmobranch species from Sabah. In Elasmobranch Biodiversity, Conservation and Management: Proceedings of the International Seminar and Workshop, Sabah, Malaysia (pp. 70-77).

Masuda, M. (1998). Mating, spawning and hatching of the white spotted bamboo shark in an aquarium. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology45(1), 29-35.

Michael, S. W. (1993). Reef sharks and rays of the world. A guide to their identification, behaviour and ecology.

Miki, T. (1994). Spawning, hatching, and growth of the whitespotted bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium plagiosum. J. Jpn. Assoc. Zool. Aqua36, 10-19.

Wai, T. C., Yeung, J. W., Lam, V. Y., Leung, K. M., Dudgeon, D., & Williams, G. A. (2012). Monsoons and habitat influence trophic pathways and the importance of terrestrial‐marine linkages for estuary sharks. Ecosphere3(1), 1-31.

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