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Temporal range: Upper Jurassic–Recent[1]
Grey bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium griseum)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Hemiscylliidae
T. N. Gill, 1862

Hemiscylliidae is a family of sharks in the order Orectolobiformes, commonly known as longtail carpet sharks or bamboo sharks. They are found in shallow waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific.

They are relatively small sharks, with the largest species reaching no more than 121 cm (48 in) in adult body length. They have elongated, cylindrical bodies, with short barbels and large spiracles. As their common name suggests, they have unusually long tails, which exceed the length of the rest of the body. They are sluggish fish, feeding off bottom dwelling invertebrates and smaller fish.[1]

Genera and species

Genus Species Type species Synonyms Temporal range
Chiloscyllium J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837 8 Scyllium plagiosum Bennett, 1830 Synchismus Gill, 1862 Cenomanian—Recent[2]
Hemiscyllium J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837 9 Squalus ocellatus Bonnaterre, 1788 Thanetian—Recent[2]


This genus is distinguished by a relatively long snout with subterminal nostrils. The eyes and supraorbital ridges are hardly elevated. The mouth is closer to the eyes than to the tip of the snout, with lower labial folds usually connected across the chin by a flap of skin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are thin and not very muscular. There is no black hood on head or large black spot on the side[3] (though juveniles often are strongly marked with dark spots/bars).


This genus is confined to tropical waters off Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, but an individual from this genus, possibly representing an undescribed species, has been photographed at the Seychelles.[4] They have short snouts with the nostrils placed almost at the tip, and well-elevated eyes and supraorbital ridges. The mouth is closer to the tip of the snout than the eyes, and lack the connecting dermal fold across the chin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are thick and heavily muscular. There is either a black hood on the head or a large black spot(s) on the sides of the body.[3]

There are currently nine recognized species in this genus:[5][6]

Fossil taxa

  • Acanthoscyllium sahelalmae (Pictet & Humbert, 1866)
  • Almascyllium cheikeliasi (Signeaux, 1949)
  • Chiloscyllium broenirnani Casier, 1958
  • Hemiscyllium bruxelliensis Herman, 1977
  • Mesiteia daimeriesi (Herman, 1973)
  • Pseudospinax heterodon Underwood & Mitchell, 1999


Hemiscylliid sharks are sometimes kept in home aquaria.[9] Species from this family are ideal aquarium sharks because their natural habitats are tidepools, coral beds, and around boulders.[9] This predisposition towards relatively confined spaces helps them adapt better to home aquaria compared to other species.[9] Their generally small size for sharks and their preference for water temperatures comparable to those enjoyed by other common aquarium fish have also endeared them to marine aquarists.[9] Multiple species of hemiscylliid have been successfully induced to breed in captivity.[9]

Full sized adult epaulette sharks are most successfully housed in tanks at or exceeding 180 gallons, while adult bamboo sharks require more space and are known to do well in 240 gallon aquaria.[9] Hemiscyliids in captivity are provided artificial caves for them to hide in. However, unstable tank decor have been known to cause fatal injuries when the structure is disturbed by the sharks' digging behavior.


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