Arabian Carpetshark: Chiloscyllium arabicum

Family: Hemiscylliidae
Common name(s)

Arabian Carpetshark, Arabian Bamboo Shark.


Head broad. Snout short and bluntly rounded. Long nasal barbells. Spiracle slightly smaller than, and positioned below and slightly behind eye. Short gill slits. Well defined lateral groove on each flank running from behind head to base of tail. Dorsal fins have straight or mildly convex posterior margins. First dorsal origin over midpoint of pectoral fin base. Second dorsal almost as large as first. Anal fin low and rounded; positioned directly before lower caudal lobe. Caudal fin long and thin, with long, low, rounded lobes.
Dorsal coloration tan or brown. Usually unmarked but older animals may have a few scattered small dark or pale spots on head, torso and fins.


Maximum size 80cm. Size at birth less than 10cm.


Tropical coral reefs, reef rubble patches, rocky shorelines and mangrove flats. From 2-100m.


The Arabian carpetshark inhabits the northwest Indian Ocean. It is found in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, along the coastlines of Iran and Pakistan, to the southern tip of India.
Exact limits of its range are unclear due to confusion with the grey bamboo shark H. griseum.

Conservation Status


The Arabian carpetshark is a hardy species that is taken as bycatch mostly in trawls and stake nets; it is usually discarded at sea. The species has low market value. A shrimp bycatch study undertaken between 1987 and 1989 in Kuwait suggests that of the 34,750 to 55,500 tons of bycatch quantities, more than 98% were discarded with the discarded fish comprised of 14% carpet sharks (Ye et al. 2000, Chen et al. 2012).
Habitat degradation is likely to be an important factor. The Arabian Carpetshark is known to have close association with coral reef habitats, which are particularly prone to anthropogenic degradation and the effects of climate change (Carpenter et al. 2008, Normile 2016). In the Gulf this includes changes due to the damming of the Tigris-Euphrates river system in Turkey and the drainage of the Iraqi marshes (Al-Yamani et al. 2007), chronic and acute (e.g., war-related) releases of oil, rapid large-scale coastal development (e.g., megastructures in the UAE), and changes to benthic communities from demersal trawling. Coastal land reclamation has accelerated in this area in recent years and, as a result, coastal reefs and other habitat have been destroyed. For example, this has resulted in the almost total loss of mangrove areas around Bahrain (Morgan 2006a).
High levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzo [a] pyrene reported from this species from Kuwait (Al-Hassan et al. 2000).
In India, declines in general catch rates, biomass, recruitment and shifts in regular landing patterns in inshore fisheries have been linked to steep increases in the fisher population, number and efficiency of craft and gears, and associated fishing effort, as well as the degradation of coastal habitats (mangroves, coral reefs, etc.) caused by pollution of coastal waters, urbanization, coastal developments, etc. (Morgan 2006b). Although no specific data are available it is reasonable to assume that this species has been impacted.
The species is commonly used in aquaria, e.g., in Kuwait (Tony McEwan Kuwait Scientific Centre pers. comm. to A.B. Moore 30/09/2006), although this is not thought to represent a threat to populations.

Citations and References
Moore, A. 2017. Chiloscyllium arabicumThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T161426A109902537. Downloaded on 27 December 2020.


Oviparous. A single egg case develops in each uterus.


Feeds on squid, shelled mollusks, crustaceans and snake eels.


Nocturnal. Rests by day in crevices on the reef or under corals.

Reaction to divers

Reasonably easy to approach with slow casual movements. Will bolt if molested.

Diving logistics

Arabian bamboo sharks are regularly seen by divers in the UAE. There is a resident population on the shallow reefs adjacent to Abu Dhabi.
Contact for more info.

Similar species

Grey Bamboo Shark Distinguished by dorsal fins with straight or concave rear margins, and a first dorsal origin level with the pectoral fin insertions.