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.
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|
|Hemiscyllium J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837||8||Squalus ocellatus Bonnaterre, 1788||Thanetian—Recent|
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 (though juveniles often are strongly marked with dark spots/bars).
- Chiloscyllium arabicum Gubanov, 1980 (Arabian carpetshark)
- Chiloscyllium burmensis Dingerkus & DeFino, 1983 (Burmese bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium caerulopunctatum Pellegrin, 1914 (Bluespotted bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium griseum J. P. Müller & Henle, 1838 (Grey bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium hasseltii Bleeker, 1852 (Hasselt's bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium indicum (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) (Slender bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium plagiosum (Anonymous, referred to Bennett, 1830) (Whitespotted bamboo shark)
- Chiloscyllium punctatum J. P. Müller & Henle, 1838 (Brownbanded bamboo shark)
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. 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.
- Hemiscyllium freycineti (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824) (Indonesian speckled carpetshark)
- Hemiscyllium galei G. R. Allen & Erdmann, 2008
- Hemiscyllium hallstromi Whitley, 1967 (Papuan epaulette shark)
- Hemiscyllium henryi G. R. Allen & Erdmann, 2008
- Hemiscyllium michaeli G. R. Allen & Dudgeon, 2010 (Milne Bay epaulette shark)
- Hemiscyllium ocellatum (Bonnaterre, 1788) (Epaulette shark)
- Hemiscyllium strahani Whitley, 1967 (Hooded carpetshark)
- Hemiscyllium trispeculare J. Richardson, 1843 (Speckled carpetshark)
- †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. Species from this family are ideal aquarium sharks because their natural habitats are tidepools, coral beds, and around boulders. This predisposition towards relatively confined spaces helps them adapt better to home aquaria compared to other species. 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. Multiple species of hemiscylliid have been successfully induced to breed in captivity.
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. 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.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Hemiscylliidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
- Sepkoski, J. (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera (Chondrichthyes entry)". Bulletins of American Paleontology 364: 560. http://strata.ummp.lsa.umich.edu/jack/showgenera.php?taxon=575&rank=class.
- Compagno, Leonard J.V. (1984). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization. ISBN 92-5-101384-5.
- Debelius, H. (1993). Indian Ocean Tropical Fish Guide. Aquaprint Verlags GmbH. ISBN 3-927991-01-5
- Allen & Erdmann (2008). "Two new species of bamboo sharks (Orectolobiformes: Hemiscylliidae) from Western New Guinea". Aqua (Miradolo Terme) 13 (3-4): 93–108.
- Allen & Dudgeon (2010). "Hemiscyllium michaeli, a new species of Bamboo Shark (Hemiscyllidae) from Papua New Guinea". Aqua International Journal of Ichthyology 16 (1): 19–30.
- Michael, Scott W. (March 2004). "Sharks at Home". Aquarium Fish Magazine: pp. 20–29