White-spotted bamboo sharks belong to the family Hemiscyllidae. Other bamboo shark species include the brownbanded bamboo shark and the epaulette shark.
They are known as “cat sharks” because the nasal barbels near their mouths look like cat whiskers. These are actually sensory organs that help them locate food hidden in the sand.
White-spotted bamboo sharks have dark brown stripes on a lighter brown/gray background, and white spots. They can grow to be about three feet long.
White-spotted bamboo sharks prefer inshore, shallow, tropical reefs. They have such slender bodies that they are able to glide between coral branches and hide in the crevices of reefs.
Their ranges are the Indo-West Pacific Ocean regions of Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan and the Philippines.
Their diet consists of crab, shrimp and small fish. They are nocturnal predators and will scour the bottom for food, sucking in what they find.
Like other sharks, they also have electroreceptors (ampulae of lorenzini) along their snout to help them locate prey that is buried in the sand and mud. They have small mouths, but powerful jaws.
They use their muscular paired fins like legs to help them “crawl” along the ocean floor or reef. These docile sharks are most active at night.
Larger sharks are potential predators of the white-spotted bamboo shark.
The white-spotted bamboo shark is listed as “Near Threatened” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Threats to this animal include collection for human consumption and habitat degradation due to dynamite and cyanide fishing. Marine debris, or any garbage that ends up in the ocean, instead of the landfill or recycling center, is also a problem.