Bluespotted bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum)

Also known as: whitespotted bamboo shark
Synonyms: Chiloscyllium caerulopunctatum
French: Requin-chabot Á Taches Blanches, Requin-chabot À Taches Bleues
Spanish: Bamboa Estrellada, Bamboa Punteada
GenusChiloscyllium (1)
SizeMale body length: 50 - 83 cm (2)
Female body length: up to 95 cm (2)

The bluespotted bamboo shark is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The bluespotted bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) is a small, handsome species of tropical shark which is covered in numerous white or bluish spots as well as dark spots, bands and saddles against a dark brown background (2) (3).

The bluespotted bamboo shark has a stout body and a rounded snout, which bears sensory barbels. Its pectoral fins are muscular and relatively flexible, enabling the shark to crawl along the bottom of the reef and into crevices (3) (4). This species has two dorsal fins which are roughly equal in size and are set quite far back on the body (2) (3).

The bluespotted bamboo shark is found in tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific, where it ranges from India to southern Japan (1) (2).

The bluespotted bamboo shark inhabits shallow, inshore, subtropical and tropical reefs (2).

There is little information available on the biology of the bluespotted bamboo shark in the wild, with many details of its reproduction and other life history stages coming from captivity (1).

The mating season of the bluespotted bamboo shark takes place during December and January off the Taiwanese coast, although ovulation does not occur until March through to May, which may suggest that the female is able to store sperm (5). The female bluespotted bamboo shark is oviparous, laying eggs rather than giving birth to live young. The female will deposit two egg capsules on the sea floor every six to seven days during spring and summer. The maximum number of eggs per breeding season recorded for captive individuals is 26 (6), although wild individuals have been recorded laying between 4 and 14 eggs (5).

Bluespotted bamboo shark eggs hatch after an average of 110 to 135 days, and hatchlings may measure around 9.8 to 12.5 centimetres in length (2) (6). The young sharks grow rapidly over the first few months of life (6). Whilst longevity in the wild is unknown, captive bluespotted bamboo sharks have been found to live for up to 25 years (7).

The bluespotted bamboo shark is nocturnal, feeding at night upon small marine fish and crustaceans, and resting in reef crevices during the day (2). The bluespotted bamboo shark’s teeth are adapted for clutching soft-bodied prey and crushing hard prey (8).

The bluespotted bamboo shark is under threat from unregulated fishing throughout its range, often being caught for human consumption (1) (2). The bluespotted bamboo shark is also a prized species in the aquarium trade, not only due to its attractive appearance and benign nature, but also because it survives well and for long periods in captivity (1) (2).

Much of the bluespotted bamboo shark’s habitat is disappearing due to the detrimental effect of humans upon the vital coral reef ecosystems that support this species. These human impacts include dynamite fishing and pollution from run-off from the land (1). 

The rapidly expanding human population in the regions inhabited by the bluespotted bamboo shark mean the threats to this small shark are likely to increase into the future (1).

While there is no information available on the bluespotted bamboo shark’s population size or structure to provide accurate details about its population trends, it is highly likely that the survival of this species is not secure (1). Careful and detailed monitoring throughout the bluespotted bamboo shark’s range is needed, to provide the fishing catch and aquarium trade data needed for an accurate assessment of its conservation status (1).

An investigation needs to be made into the extent of the bluespotted bamboo shark’s exploitation from the wild for the aquarium trade, and the industry should be encouraged to take stock from sustainable sources. Since the bluespotted bamboo shark breeds well in captivity, captive-reared rather than wild individuals should be used to supply this ever-growing market (1).

Measures to restore and protect coral reef habitats in Asia need to be continued to secure the future of the bluespotted bamboo shark and other reef-dwelling shark species (1). The South Asia Coral Reef Task Force has been established to help implement regional and international initiatives in the management of coral reefs in South Asia (9). The range of the bluespotted bamboo shark also includes some Marine Protected Areas, such as those in Nasugbu in the Philippines (10).

Learn more about the conservation of the bluespotted bamboo shark’s habitat:

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  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
  2. Compagno, L.J.V. (2001) Sharks of the World. An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date: Volume 2: Bullhead, Mackerel and Carpet Sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
  3. Florida Museum of Natural History - Whitespotted bambooshark (September, 2011)
  4. Wilga, C.D. and Lauder, G.V. (2001) Functional morphology of the pectoral fins in bamboo sharks, Chiloscyllium plagiosum: benthic vs. pelagic station-holding. Journal of Morphology, 249: 195-209.
  5. Chen, W.K. and Liu, K.M. (2006) Reproductive biology of whitespotted bamboo shark Chiloscyllium plagiosum in northern waters off Taiwan. Fisheries Science, 72: 1215-1224.
  6. Miki, T. (1994) Spawning, hatching, and growth of the whitespotted bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium plagiosumJournal of Japanese Association of Zoological Gardens and Aquariums, 36: 10-19. 
  7. Michael, S.W. (1993) Reef Sharks and Rays of the World. A Guide to their Identification, Behavior and Ecology. Sea Challengers, Monterey, California.
  8. Ramsay, J.B. and Wilga, C.D. (2007) Morphology and mechanics of the teeth and jaws of white-spotted bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium plagiosum). Journal of Morphology, 268: 664-682.
  9. South Asia Coral Reef Task Force (September, 2011)
  10. Conservation International, Philippines – Spotted: Bamboo Sharks in Nasugbu Marine Protected Areas (September, 2011)