Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The blind shark is a sluggish, nocturnal shark that hides in caves and under ledges during the day, and comes out at night to feed (2). Its diet is composed of small fishes, crabs, shrimps, cuttlefish, squid and sea anemones (2) (3). Blind sharks are viviparous, but there no placenta is formed (4). Seven to eight pups are produced in each litter, which are born in the summer, around November (3). It is thought that blind sharks produce a litter each year (5).
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Description

This small, stout shark gets its name from its habit of retracting its eyeballs, which causes its thick eyelids to close, when removed from water. It is usually brown above with white spots, and sometimes has darker saddle stripes. Underneath, the shark is light yellowish with many small, white spots. It has a relatively short tail region, and two equal-sized dorsal fins are located far back on the body. Large, conspicuous spiracles (respiratory openings) are located just behind the small eyes, and distinctive barbels (long, fleshy projections) hang down next to the tiny mouth (2) (3).
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Usually found close inshore in tide pools (barely deep enough to keep it covered) and at the surf line, but sometimes deeper (Ref. 247). Prefers rocky shoreline areas and coral reefs (Ref. 247, 43278). Feeds on small reef invertebrates (Ref. 247), including crabs, shrimps, cuttlefish, squid and sea anemones (Ref. 43278), and small fishes (Ref. 247). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 43278, 50449). Thrives in an aquaria and capable of living out of water for a long time (Ref. 247).
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 247)
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Distribution

Range Description

Brachaelurus waddi is endemic to the western South Pacific Ocean in warm temperate to subtropical waters along the east coast of Australia ranging from Mooloolaba in southern Queensland south to Jervis Bay in New South Wales (NSW) (Last and Stevens 1994, Johnson 1999). Last and Stevens (1994) state that "reports from Western Australia and the Northern Territory require confirmation". However, there are no confirmed reports of the species from either Western Australia (Barry Hutchins, personal communication) or from the Northern Territory (Helen Larson, personal communication) and it is probable that the grey carpetshark, Chiloscyllium punctatum (family Hemiscylliidae), may have been mistaken for B. waddi in these areas (Last and Stevens 1994, Barry Hutchins, personal communication).
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Australia.
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Southwest Pacific: confined to Australia, southern Queensland and New South Wales. Records from Western Australia and northern Territory need confirmation.
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 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 Spec. Cat. Fish. Purp. 1(2):269p. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 43278)
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Range

Occurs in the western South Pacific, along the east coast of Australia (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 0; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 0
  • Compagno, L.J.V. and V.H. Niem 1998 Brachaeluridae. Blind sharks. p. 1243-1244. In K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds.) FAO identification guide for fishery purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO, Rome. (Ref. 13576)
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Size

Maximum size: 1220 mm TL
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Max. size

122 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 247))
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 247)
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Diagnostic Description

Mostly with white spots on body (Ref. 13576). Caudal fin with its upper lobe at a low angle above body axis, with a strong terminal lobe and subterminal notch but no ventral lobe (Ref. 13576).
  • Compagno, L.J.V. and V.H. Niem 1998 Brachaeluridae. Blind sharks. p. 1243-1244. In K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds.) FAO identification guide for fishery purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO, Rome. (Ref. 13576)
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Brachaelurus waddi is a secretive nocturnal benthic shark inhabiting rocky shorelines and reefs, and also nearby seagrass beds. It remains in rocky caves and under ledges during the day moving out to feed at night. Juveniles often occupy ledges, crevices and seagrass beds in high-energy surge zones (Kuiter 1993, Michael 1993). The species is reported over the continental shelf from the intertidal zone to 140 m depth (Last and Stevens 1994). Detailed dietary assessments are unavailable, however, the species is reported to feed on a variety of reef invertebrates, including sea anemones, squid and crustaceans, as well as small fishes (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Last and Stevens (1994) report a maximum size of 120 cm total length (TL), but note that individuals are normally much smaller than this maximum. A male of 60 cm TL and a female of 66 cm TL were both reported to be sexually mature (Last and Stevens 1994). This appears to be the only available information on sexual maturity in the species, and a smaller size at maturity is possible.

Brachaelurus waddi displays aplacental yolksac viviparity with litters of 7 to 8 young (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Parturition occurs around November, based on observations off Sydney, New South Wales (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Young are born at 17 cm TL (Last and Stevens 1994). Reproductive periodicity is assumed to be annual. There are no estimates available on gestation periods. Similarly, information on age and growth, natural mortality and behavioural ecology is lacking.

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth: 0 - 140m.
Recorded at 140 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated.
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Environment

reef-associated; marine; depth range 0 - 140 m (Ref. 6871)
  • Last, P.R. and J.D. Stevens 1994 Sharks and rays of Australia. CSIRO, Australia. 513 p. (Ref. 6871)
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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1 sample.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 2 - 74
  Temperature range (°C): 25.195 - 25.195
  Nitrate (umol/L): 1.782 - 1.782
  Salinity (PPS): 35.048 - 35.048
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.906 - 3.906
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.369 - 0.369
  Silicate (umol/l): 6.531 - 6.531

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 2 - 74
 
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The blind shark inhabits rocky shorelines, coral reefs and seagrass beds. It can be found close inshore in tidepools, down to depths of 140 metres (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Usually found close inshore in tide pools (barely deep enough to keep it covered) and at the surf line, but sometimes deeper (Ref. 247). Prefers rocky shoreline areas and coral reefs (Ref. 247). Feeds on small reef invertebrates and small fishes (Ref. 247).
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 247)
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Ovoviviparous, embryos feed solely on yolk (Ref. 50449). With 7 or 8 young in a litter (Ref. 247). Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205).
  • Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen 1966 Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p. (Ref. 205)
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Brachaelurus waddi

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2003
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Kyne, P.M. & Bennett, M.B. (SSG Australia & Oceania Regional Workshop, March 2003)

Reviewer/s
Shark Specialist Group Australia & Oceania Regional Group (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Brachaelurus waddi is endemic to the east coast of Australia. No detailed information is available on current population trends, however, it is a relatively common species. It is not targeted commercially or recreationally, and is likely to be only a minor component of fisheries bycatch. There is little information available on its biology or ecology but it appears to be a hardy species, capable of surviving out of water for extended periods; thus post-capture survivorship may be high. It is popular in the marine aquarium trade although current levels of exploitation are unknown. More research is needed, but since there are currently no significant threats to its viability it is assessed as Least Concern.
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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
Brachaelurus waddi is relatively common throughout its range. There is no available information on subpopulations.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
This species is not targeted or marketed commercially (Last and Stevens 1994). The flesh is reported to be unpalatable (Grant 1978) and recreational fishing is thought to have little impact on the species. Rock fishers often encounter blind sharks (Last and Stevens 1994), and while recreational fishers in NSW have been reported to retain very small amounts of the species (Rose and SAG 2001), it is thought that the shark is generally not retained and is probably mostly returned to the water (Dave Pollard, personal communication). Spearfishers are unlikely to encounter B. waddi because of its cryptic nocturnal nature. The species is likely to be taken as bycatch in demersal prawn trawl fisheries in NSW (ocean prawn trawl fishery) and in Queensland (East Coast Trawl Fishery). The NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery is also likely to occasionally capture this species, however numbers taken as bycatch are not known as there are no statistics available (Nick Otway, personal communication). Blind sharks are reported to be able to remain out of water for extended periods of time (up to 18 hours) (Michael 1993, Last and Stevens 1994). This apparent hardiness implies that the species could survive trawl capture more readily than other species if successfully returned to the water.

Shark control programs (SCP) operate in NSW and Queensland waters within the range of B. waddi. Dudley and Gribble (1999) report the species from the Queensland SCP but no details were provided. The shark has never been recorded in the NSW Protective Beach Meshing Program (Dennis Reid, personal communication). The mesh size used in the NSW program is 50-60 cm and in the Queensland program 50 cm, therefore blind sharks are likely to readily pass through the nets if encountered. Its capture in the Queensland SCP is likely to be extremely rare.

Blindsharks are exploited at low levels for the marine aquarium trade and are reported to be hardy and well suited to aquarium display (Michael 2001). The exact level of pressure placed on their populations by capture for this trade is unknown. The above interactions with the species are assumed to be having minimal impact on the viability of its populations. Furthermore, despite its cryptic nature, it appears to be relatively common, particularly in NSW waters (Jeff Johnson, personal communication).
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Least Concern (LC)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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This relatively common shark is not targeted by commercial fisheries due to its apparently unpalatable flesh (5). It is however caught by sports fisherman, though it is thought that most are returned to the water and that this recreational activity has very little impact on the shark (1) (5). The blind shark is likely to be caught unintentionally as by-catch in trawl fisheries; however, it is known to be able to survive for up to 18 hours out of water, and thus may survive trawl capture if released back into the ocean. They are also exploited for the marine aquarium trade, and are reported to be a hardy species that can thrive in such environments (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
A number of Marine Protected Areas occur within the known range of B. waddi, however the zoning plans for these parks are complex and fishing activities are permitted in many of them, resulting in only a small area of fully protected sanctuaries. Marine Protected Areas in NSW waters where B. waddi is likely to occur and where commercial and recreational fishing activities are completely banned in at least some sections of the park are: Solitary Islands Marine Park (total area 71,000 hectares), Jervis Bay Marine Park (21,450 hectares), Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve (Sydney, 17 hectares), Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve (Shell Harbour, 3 hectares) and Shiprock Aquatic Reserve (Port Hacking, two hectares). There is currently also a proposal for a Marine Park in the Bryon Bay region of northern NSW. In Queensland, B. waddi occurs in Moreton Bay Marine Park (306,000 hectares). Only small areas of this park with habitat suitable for B. waddi (Flinders Reef, north of Cape Moreton and Peel Island) are protected from fishing activities. Additionally, the species is likely to occur in the Commonwealth managed Solitary Islands Marine Reserve (17,000 hectares), adjacent to NSW?s Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Although currently not at risk of extinction, research into this species is needed to provide data on life history and ecology, to identify the level of interaction with fisheries as bycatch, and to provide more information on the status of the species.
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Conservation

A number of MPAs and aquatic reserves occur within the range of the blind shark; however, fishing activities are permitted in many of them (5). Although the blind shark is not considered to be at risk of extinction at present, research into this species' biology and ecology would provide more information on the status of the species, and further research into what extent the blind shark may be affected by by-catch is also required (1).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

gamefish: yes
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 247)
  • Compagno, L.J.V. and V.H. Niem 1998 Brachaeluridae. Blind sharks. p. 1243-1244. In K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds.) FAO identification guide for fishery purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO, Rome. (Ref. 13576)
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Wikipedia

Blind shark

The blind shark (Brachaelurus waddi) is one of two species of carpet sharks in the family Brachaeluridae, along with the bluegrey carpetshark (Brachaelurus colcloughi). Found along the coast of eastern Australia, this nocturnal, bottom-dwelling species is common in rocky areas and seagrass beds from the intertidal zone to a depth of 140 m (460 ft). It often roams in tidal pools where it may be trapped by the receding tide, and can survive for an extended period out of water. The blind shark is not actually blind; its common name came from its habit of closing its eyes when taken out of the water.

Maturing at under 62–66 cm (24–26 in) long, the blind shark has a stocky, grayish to brownish body with white flecks and darker bands that fade with age. Its head is wide, flattened, and blunt, with small eyes on top and a pair of long barbels underneath. It has large pectoral fins, two nearly equal-sized dorsal fins placed far back on the body, and an anal fin placed close to the caudal fin. The blind shark feeds primarily on small invertebrates and bony fishes. It is aplacental viviparous with females bearing litters of 7–8 pups in the summer. This small shark adapts readily to being kept in captivity. It is not valued by either commercial or recreational fishers, and its hardiness means that incidentally caught individuals are likely to be returned to the water alive. In the absence of substantial threats to its population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed it as of Least Concern.

Taxonomy and phylogeny[edit]

German naturalists Marcus Elieser Bloch and Johann Gottlob Schneider originally described the blind shark as Squalus waddi, in their 1801 Systema Ichthyologiae. However, there is uncertainty over whether their account was referring to this species or the brownbanded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum), as it was based on a painting by John Latham that could not be located by subsequent authors. In 1907, James Douglas Ogilby coined the genus Brachaelurus for this species, from the Greek brachys meaning "short", and ailouros meaning "cat".[3] In 1973, Leonard Compagno placed it and the bluegrey carpetshark in their own family.[4] This shark may also be referred to as the brown catshark or dusky dogfish.[5]

Various phylogenetic studies, based on morphology, have concluded that the blind shark lineage represents the sister taxon to the wobbegongs.[6] Blind shark fossils have been found in Late Cretaceous period (99.6–65.5 Ma) deposits from Europe, as well as in Pliocene epoch (5.3–2.6 Ma) deposits from Chile and Peru. A number of other Brachaelurus species are also known from the fossil record.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The blind shark favors rocky habitats.

The range of the blind shark is restricted to the eastern coast of Australia, from Mooloolaba in southern Queensland to Jervis Bay in New South Wales; past reports from off Western Australia and Northern Territory appear to be misidentifications of the brownbanded bamboo shark.[2] The blind shark is a bottom-dwelling species that generally inhabits the continental shelf from the intertidal zone, including tidal pools barely deep enough to cover its body, to a depth of 73 m (240 ft), though it has been recorded as deep as 140 m (460 ft).[4][5] Preferred habitats are rocky areas and adjacent seagrass beds; juveniles are common in high-energy surge zones.[2] In Nelson Bay, this shark has been observed lying in the open atop sponges.[7]

Description[edit]

The blind shark has a stocky body and a wide, somewhat flattened head with a blunt snout. The small, oval eyes are situated high on the head and have strong ridges underneath; the oval spiracles are positioned behind and below and have obvious raised rims. The nostrils are placed almost at the tip of the snout and have long, tapering barbels in front and well-developed skin flaps and grooves around the incurrent openings. A pair of obvious grooves connect the nostrils to the small, almost transverse mouth. There are 32–34 upper tooth rows and 21–29 lower tooth rows; each tooth has an upright, awl-shaped central cusp and a pair of lateral cusplets. The five pairs of gill slits are small, with the fifth pair close to the fourth.[4][8]

The pectoral fins are large and broad, with rounded margins. The two dorsal fins are roughly equal in size and have rounded apices and angular free rear tips; the first dorsal fin originates over the bases of the pelvic fins. The pelvic fins are rounded and almost as large as the pectoral fins. The anal fin is less than half the size of the dorsal fins and is positioned very close to the base of the long, low caudal fin. The caudal fin comprises about a quarter of the total length, with no ventral lobe and a strong ventral notch near the tip of the upper lobe. The dermal denticles are large, giving the skin a rough texture.[4][8] This species is light to dark brown above, often with white flecks, and lighter below. Juveniles also have dark bands over the body and tail, which fade with age.[9] The blind shark can reach a length of 0.9–1.2 m (3.0–3.9 ft), though most are much smaller.[4]

Biology and ecology[edit]

Contrary to its common name, the blind shark has "perfectly adequate" vision.[10] It was so named by anglers because it retracts its eyeballs and shuts its thick lower eyelids when removed from the water.[4] This species can live for up to 18 hours out of water, allowing it to survive being stranded by the outgoing tide.[9] The blind shark is secretive and sluggish during the day, with adults usually hiding in caves or under ledges and juveniles inside crevices, though it will take food given the opportunity. At night, it moves out over reefs and seagrass meadows to forage for small invertebrates (including crabs, shrimp, cephalopods, and sea anemones) and bony fishes. Prey items are captured via suction.[2][4]

Illustration of a blind shark fetus, with the yolk sac not yet completely absorbed.

The blind shark is aplacental viviparous with a possibly annual reproductive cycle.[2] Females give birth to 7–8 pups during the summer; newborns measure 15–18 cm (5.9–7.1 in) long. Sexual maturity is attained at under a length of 62 cm (24 in) for males, and 66 cm (26 in) for females.[4] It has lived to 20 years old in captivity.[10] A known parasite of this shark is an undescribed species of tapeworm in the genus Carpobothrium.[11]

Human interactions[edit]

The blind shark is basically harmless to humans, though it can bite if provoked and is difficult to remove, owing to its strong jaws and powerful suction.[8][9] There are cases of blind sharks biting and holding onto divers' wetsuits even after they surfaced, and could only be removed by prying open the sharks' jaws.[7] This species is one of the few sharks considered suitable for private aquaria, as it is hardy, grows to a small size, and has sedentary habits, though its nocturnal, reclusive nature make it difficult to observe. The blind shark has even been induced to breed in captivity, with the Sydney Aquarium having successfully maintained a breeding colony.[10]

Commercial fisheries do not target or utilize the blind shark, as its flesh has a strong ammonia-like taste that is not easily removed. It is caught incidentally by prawn trawl and other fisheries off Queensland and New South Wales, though post-discard survival may be high due to its ability to tolerate being out of water. Small numbers of blind sharks are caught by recreational fishers, who regard them as a nuisance because its small mouth and strong jaws make removing lodged hooks difficult. It is generally too small to be susceptible to shark nets used to protect beaches. The impact of collection for the aquarium trade on this shark is unknown but not thought to be severe.[2][4] The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the blind shark under Least Concern, as it remains abundant and the various pressures on its population do not seem to pose significant threats. Its range overlaps a number of current and proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Williams, G.S. (1999). A Listing of Fossil Sharks and Rays of the World. Retrieved on 30 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kyne, P.M. and Bennett, M.B. (2003). Brachaelurus waddi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 13 February 2009.
  3. ^ Ogilby, J.D. (25 August 1908). "On new genera and species of fishes". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 21: 1–26.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Compagno, L.J.V. (2002). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date (Volume 2). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. pp. 142–146 ISBN 92-5-104543-7.
  5. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2010). "Brachaelurus waddi" in FishBase. January 2010 version.
  6. ^ Goto, T. (2001). "Comparative Anatomy, Phylogeny and Cladistic Classification of the Order Orectolobiformes (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii)". Memoirs of the Graduate School of Fisheries Science, Hokkaido University 48 (1): 1–101.
  7. ^ a b Murch, A. Blind Shark - Brachaelurus waddi information. Elasmodiver.com. Retrieved on 31 January 2010.
  8. ^ a b c Last, P.R. and J.D. Stevens (2009). Sharks and Rays of Australia (second ed). Harvard University Press. pp. 131. ISBN 0-674-03411-2.
  9. ^ a b c Michael, S.W. (1993). Reef Sharks & Rays of the World. Sea Challengers. p. 40. ISBN 0-930118-18-9.
  10. ^ a b c Michael, S.W. "Sharks at Home". Aquarium Fish Magazine March 2004: pp. 20–29.
  11. ^ Caira, J.N., K. Jensen and C.J. Healy (1999). "On the phylogenetic relationships among tetraphyllidean, lecanicephalidean and diphyllidean tapeworm genera". Systematic Parasitology 42: 77–151.
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