Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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A Weakness for Wobbegongs

Anyone that’s heard me go on about sharks (which I actually do for a living, so… quite a few people) will know that despite my love for everything from the largest (that’ll be the lovely Rhincodon typus) to the cutest (I’ll argue for that role going to zebra sharks), I have a very severe weakness for wobbegongs.

Yes, hello. I make this face for all of them.

Yes, hello. I make this face for all of them.

I. Love. Wobbegongs.

I don’t even know what it is about them. I often joke that they’re my kindred spirits, or myself in shark form, or that I must have been one in a past life. Who wouldn’t want to spend most of the day lying around on the sea floor until food swims close enough to your mouth, am I right? Thing is, I’m not even an inactive person. I think I just like the idea of being a wobbegong. They’re such an underestimated family of sharks, and physically one of the least “sharky”-looking, so I love pointing them out to people as an example of elasmobranch diversity. There are twelve species and they’re all equally Muppetesque (for those wondering, I’ve always thought Uncle Deadly was the most wobbegongesque.) They’re mostly found around Australia and Indonesia, although there’s also the Japanese wobbegong. Mostly nocturnal, you’re more likely to see a wobbegong draped over something rather than actively swimming, which they do like an area rug come to life. You shouldn’t underestimate those jaws, though. Whoa.

My original intention was to celebrate wobbegongs all week as a sort of anti-Discovery’s Shark Week. I’m really not a fan of the “event” and I especially dislike the focus on the few super popular species, but I also wanted to do something other than complain about the programming all week. I wanted to be positive about spreading the love of the lesser knowns, like wobbegongs! But of course August is always an insane month for me so I’ve only managed to do a couple of things. Here is one of those things though! Just a small cartoony expression of my love:One of my absolute favourite things about wobbegongs is their habit of throwing themselves down anywhere like a slightly toothier cat. I like this so much, in fact, that I rewrote Eleanor Farjeon’s famous poem “Cats Sleep Anywhere”:

Wobbegongs lie anywhere, any reef, any lair.
Top of staghorn, rocky ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Table coral, sandy floor – all good places to lie some more.
Flopped down on the seagrass bed, any place to rest their head.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Wobbegongs lie anywhere.


Next year I’ll be sure to time things right in order to have a proper Wobbegong Week, but remember: sharks are amazing all year round, not just for this one time in the summer. And let’s not forget the flat sharks – how about we arrange for a Ray Week sometime?