The Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) is a small, slender shark with a short snout. There are two large black spots surrounded by a white margin located above the pectoral fins. These look like ornamental epaulettes on a military uniform, giving rise to its common name. The body is cream-colored or brownish with numerous widely spaced brown spots.
The pectoral and pelvic fins are broadly rounded and paddle-like. Modifications of the attachment of these fins to the body allow for a dramatically increased range of motion. This allows this shark to use these fins to move over the substrate in a "walking" type of motion.
The epaulette shark is found in the western Pacific Ocean in waters around New Guinea and northern Australia. Commonly found in shallow water coral reef habitats from 0-164 feet (0-50 m) in depth, this bottom-dwelling shark is able to "walk" along the sea floor with muscular pectoral fins. The epaulette shark is also often found caught in tide pools cut off by the receding tide and exposed reef flats. It is well adapted for survival in these low-oxygen habitats by turning off non-essential bodily functions for several hours. One scientific study determined that the blood pressure of an epaulette shark dropped 50% during conditions of hypoxia.