Chiloscyllium species, or the carpet or bamboo sharks, belong to the family Hemiscylliidae. There are seven described species and each can be characterized by their subterminal nostrils, thin pectoral and pelvic fins, and cylindrical body. Dark spots or pigmentation can be seen in juveniles but fade as they reach maturity. Their size and adaptability make them popular aquarium attractions. ("Bamboo Sharks", 2021; Bester, 2022; "Genus: Chiloscyllium, Bamboo Sharks, Shark-bamboo", 2015; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

Geographic Range

Chiloscyllium species span from the Arabian Sea to the northwest Pacific, including the Indo-Malay archipelago and Papua New Guinea. The majority of species are found in the Indo-West Pacific. These are their native ranges, but they can be found in many aquariums across the world as well. (Bester, 2022; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)


Bamboo and carpet sharks can either be found gliding on the benthic seafloor or resting in coral reefs. They can be found anywhere between 0m-85m in depth and prefer sandy, muddy, and rocky environments. Brown-banded bamboo sharks can sometimes be found in tide pools, as they are capable of handling that environment for a lengthy amount of time. They are most active at night time when hunting for food. (Bester, 2022; Carroll and Young, 2017; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

Systematic and Taxonomic History

Phylogenetic relationships between sharks are hard to describe because researchers cannot always track their movements due to their natural environment. Researchers also do not know where sharks give birth and/or mate, so trying to track down families to determine relationships is difficult as well.

Initially, the genus Chiloscyllium was determined primarily based on morphological features. Body color, position of fins, and body-to-tail ratios were used to categorize shark species within Chiloscyllium. Throughout the years, there have been many discussions on the relationship between the species of this genus, specifically between C. indicum and C. punctatum. (Masstor, et al., 2014; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

  • Synonyms
    • Scyllium

Physical Description

Chiloscyllium sharks' bodies are elongated with brown bands appearing on most. Generally, the brown bands fade as the sharks mature; but in some cases, like with white spotted bamboo sharks, they do not. Large spiracles are located below and behind the eyes, which rest on either the side of the sharks' heads. Their mouths are located closer to their eyes than their mouths, which are rounded and transverse with small, blunt teeth. Their dorsal fins are equal in size while their pectoral are straight with broad tips. They also have lobbed fins and their dorsal region has no spine. (Bester, 2022; Carroll and Young, 2017; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger


Chiloscyllium sharks are oviparous, which means they lay eggs instead of giving live birth. They release their eggs on the benthic seafloor. Fine tendrils on the eggs allow them to attach to coral or rocks. The embryos feed solely on the yolk inside of the egg until they hatch. Once they hatch, they are free swimming. If in captivity, it can take up to 4 months for the embryo to hatch. Some species have been known to utilize either parthogenesis or sperm storage techniques when contact with males is scarce. One species' female was documented to have stored sperm for 45 months. If parthogenesis is used, the zygote is diploid, wherein the ovum fuses with a polar body and the allelic diversity is very low. (Bernal, et al., 2015; Bester, 2022; Carroll and Young, 2017; Harahush, et al., 2007)


Like most sharks, not much is known about Chiloscylluim species' mating systems because they are rarely seen. Since this genus is popular in aquarium settings, it is easier to see mating in captivity, but many of them are the same sex or different species altogether. What is known is that males will bite the pectoral fin of females for about a half an hour while swimming in order to initiate mating. Copulation duration averages five minutes. There are many records of Chiloscylluim sharks going back to the same mating spots multiple times. ("Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015; Wu, 2014)

Most sharks' mating sites, birth places, and hatching sites are not known. Chiloscyllium species usually lay their eggs in pairs for 6-7 days over 2-3 months. This generally occurs during late July to February. The female can usually lay around 15-20 eggs. Female and male sharks are only seen together during mating. Females mature around a body length of 63cm whereas males mature around a body length of 68-76cm. (Harahush, et al., 2007; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015; Wyffels, et al., 2021)

Chiloscyllium species lay eggs. There is little to no parental involvement. However, currently no one has been able to document these sharks' exact hatching spots, nor where they lay their eggs. ("Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


In the wild, Chiloscyllium individuals can live anywhere from 12-14 years. However, they have been known to live up to 25 years in captivity. (Bester, 2022; Kyne, et al., 2021)


Many species of Chiloscyllium, such as the gray bamboo shark, are rarely seen because they are solitary and nocturnal sharks. Because of their size, these sharks can hide in coral reefs or caverns during the day and hunt at night. When they are active, they are usually found swimming along the floor of the ocean. They stay close to shores and do not migrate. Many behaviors that researchers have been able to observe/study have occurred in aquariums because of Chiloscyllium sharks' popularity in the business. (Carroll and Young, 2017; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

Communication and Perception

Solitary animals like those within Chiloscyllium make it challenging to gather data on communication techniques. However, researchers have found that the sharks' sense of sight is minimally used while the detection of smells, vibrations, and electrical stimuli is the sharks' main way to perceive their environment and communicate. ("Shark Communication", 2017)

Food Habits

Chiloscyllium sharks hunt and feed during the night, and their diet consists of smaller fish, crabs, shrimp and/or other invertebrates found on the ocean floor. The sharks locate their prey via electroreceptors known as ampulae of Lorenzini. Their blunt teeth allow them to hold onto soft prey without shredding flesh. The arrangement of these sharks' teeth and jaw aid in catching hard-bodied prey as well. (Bester, 2022; "Species Profile: The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2021; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)


Smaller sharks like those in Chiloscyllium are usually prey for larger sharks and/or other large marine mammals. Because of their size, Chiloscyllium sharks can easily hide in crevices and coral reefs. The Chiloscyllium species that keep their brown band coloration as adults can camouflage into those areas especially well. (Bester, 2022; Carroll and Young, 2017)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Sharks are oftentimes apex predators and keystone species in their environments, and Chiloscyllium species are no different. Their ecological roles mostly consist of eating smaller organisms or hosting parasites. (Bester, 2022)

Species Used as Host

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Chiloscyllium species are hunted for meat, thus they are a significant trade in commercial fishery industries. But these sharks primarily have high demand in personal and public aquariums because of their small sizes, adaptabilities, and appearances. They are also capable of reproducing in captivity, another desirable trait for aquarium enthusiasts. They can also sometimes be used in Chinese medicinal techniques. (Bester, 2022; Kyne, et al., 2021; "Species Profile: The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2021; "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2015)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no documented negative effects of Chiloscyllium on humans. (Bester, 2022; "Species Profile: The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark", 2021)

Conservation Status

Since there is insufficient data/research regarding Chiloscyllium sharks, they are not listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but rather "Near Threatened." Additionally, commercial fishing is not the only component threatening these shark species; habitat degradation is a key factor as well. There are measures being taken to help the species, albeit not direct aid. There are 51 protected marine areas throughout Malaysia, all in which Chiloscyllium species can reside and/or seek protection in. Additionally, Thailand does not allow large vessels (over 10 gross tonnage) within two nautical miles of shore, and Taiwan prohibits net fishing in numerous coral reefs. (Bester, 2022; Kyne, et al., 2021)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


harli soura (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University, Sydney Collins (editor), Colorado State University.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


uses electric signals to communicate


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

keystone species

a species whose presence or absence strongly affects populations of other species in that area such that the extirpation of the keystone species in an area will result in the ultimate extirpation of many more species in that area (Example: sea otter).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


development takes place in an unfertilized egg

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats fish


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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2017. "Shark Communication" (On-line). Sharks-World. Accessed March 04, 2022 at

2021. "Species Profile: The Whitespotted Bamboo Shark" (On-line). We Love Sharks. Accessed March 04, 2022 at

2015. "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark" (On-line). Accessed March 04, 2022 at

Bernal, M., N. Sinai, C. Rocha, M. Gaither, F. Dunker, L. Rocha. 2015. Long-term Sperm Storage in the Brown banded Bamboo Shark Chiloscyllium punctatum. Journal of Fish Biology, 86: 1171-1176. Accessed February 03, 2022 at

Bester, C. 2022. "Chiloscyllium puncatatum" (On-line). Florida Museum. Accessed March 04, 2022 at

Carroll, C., S. Young. 2017. "Grey Bamboo Shark" (On-line). The Wonderful Wildlife Of Samleon. Accessed March 04, 2022 at

Harahush, B., A. Fischer, S. Collin. 2007. Captive Breeding and Embryonic Development of Chiloscyllium punctatum. Journal of Fish Biology, 71: 1007 - 1022. Accessed February 03, 2022 at

Kyne, P., A. Bin Ali, F. Fahmi, K. Herman, B. Manjaji Matsumoto, W. Vanderwright. 2021. "Whitespotted Bambooshark" (On-line). ICUN Red list (online). Accessed March 04, 2022 at

Masstor, N., A. Samat, S. Nor, B. Zain. 2014. Molecular Phylogeny of the Bamboo Sharks. BioMed Research International, 2014: 1-9. Accessed February 03, 2022 at

Wu, T. 2014. "Whitespotted Bamboo Shark Mating" (On-line). Tony Wu. Photo-Naturalist. Accessed March 04, 2022 at

Wyffels, J., L. Adams, F. Bulman, A. Fustukjian, M. Hyatt, K. Feldheim, L. Penfold. 2021. Artifical Insemination and Parthenogenesis in the Whitespotted Bamboo Shark. Scientific Reports, 11: 1-12. Accessed February 11, 2022 at