Carpet Sharks are not a single shark species. They derive their name from both their bottom-dwelling nature and varied coloration. They are highly diverse group.
Orectolobiformes contains seven families of sharks. The largest of these families, Hemiscylliidae, contains the bamboo sharks and comprises 14 species within two genera, Chiloscyllium and Hemiscyllium. The two smallest carpet shark families are composed of just one species each: Stegostomatidae contains the zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum), and Rhincodontidae contains the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). The other families in the order are Brachaeluridae, the blind sharks; Parascyllidae, the collared carpet sharks; Orectolobidae, the wobbegongs; and Ginglymostomatidae, the nurse sharks. One species of nurse shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum, reaches a length of more than 4 metres (13 feet).
Orectolobiformes features some of the most interesting of all sharks. The whale shark is not only the largest shark but also by far the largest of all fish, averaging about 12 metres (39 feet) in length. Among the most beautifully coloured and strikingly marked sharks in the order are the necklace carpet shark (Parascyllium variolatum), the ornate wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus), and the zebra shark. The tasseled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) has an especially unusual appearance, with fringed lobes of skin on its head and a similar beard of lobes on its chin. Barbels (tactile sensory organs) are common features of carpet sharks. They hang near the nostrils of whale sharks and nurse sharks and are found on the throat of the aptly named barbelthroat carpet shark (Cirrhoscyllium expolitum).
Many are highly pigmented and highly varied in their dress, from the camouflaged Tassled Wobbegong to the spotted Zebra Shark and Epaulette Shark. The Collard Carpetshark changes its color to blend into its surroundings. Some are flattened, like the Wobbegong, others, like the Whale Shark, are rounded.
Most carpet sharks live at or near the bottom, but the whale shark is pelagic, living in the open ocean not close to the bottom.
Some are oviparous, laying eggs, while others are ovoviviparous, bearing live young.