Throughout the world's oceans, we can find sharks of all different colors, shapes and sizes. Many of them have spots, stripes or other colorations that help them blend into their environment and hide from predators. Want to see some examples? Take a look in The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank to see some colorful characters.
Epaulette Shark (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
One of the most colorful sharks in the exhibit is our epaulette shark. Identified by the large black spots on their bodies, the epaulette shark gets its name from a wardrobe choice of Napoleon. It's true! Epaulettes are the shoulder pieces or large decorative items worn to designate military rank. In many paintings and descriptions, Napoleon is depicted as having large epaulettes.
Yellow epaulette (wikipedia)
Epaulette sharks are named after these shoulder pieces due to their two large black spots located towards the front of their body. Now while the sharks don't use these spots to designate military rank, they do have an important purpose. They are part of their camouflage!
You would think that those big black spots would allow for the shark to stick out. And that is exactly the purpose behind those spots! The sandy color of the epaulette shark’s body blends in with their sandy habitat, allowing for those large, dark spots to be seen easily. As a large predator swims by, the spots stand out and resemble the eyes of a large animal. Thinking that a larger animal lurks nearby, the predator will swim away, leaving the small epaulette shark in peace. Success—the epaulette shark will swim to see another day.
Epaulette shark hiding in mangrove roots
We all like to make sure that we dress for success and the epaulette sharks are no different. Come by the touch tank and see if you can find those dark eye spots throughout the exhibit!