Epaulette Shark (Wild Republic by K&M International)

Review and images by callmejoe3; edited by bmathison1972

The blog will now take its first look into the epaulette shark species. Epaulette sharks belong to the genus Hemiscyllium, composed of nine formally described species, with one having yet to be described. This genus belongs to the Orectolobiformes order of sharks, commonly described as ‘’carpet sharks’’, which also includes nurse and whale sharks. The epaulette shark’s common name is derived from the black spots behind their pectoral fins that resemble the military shoulder ornament. The nine described species of Hemiscyllium all exist within the waters of northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. These species are typically found in reefs, shoals and satellite islands connected to the mainland by shallow water. Their benthic reproduction and inability to swim across deep water restricts the epaulette shark’s geographic range and likely caused the lack of overlap between the different species’ distributions. These sharks are relatively small, averaging 0.6-0.9 meters in total length. Each species is very morphologically like one another, causing distribution and coloration to be the most diagnostic means of identification. Epaulette sharks are known to be able to survive in hypoxic environments and move across land. This is accomplished due to the inherently lower ATP demand for its brain when compared to teleost, preventing neuron death. Epaulette sharks are also recognized for their high adaptability in captivity. Epaulette sharks are categorized as ‘’Near Threatened’’ by the IUCN due to habitat loss and interference by the fishing industry. Epaulette sharks generally eat crabs, small bony fish, and bristle worms. They are preyed upon by larger sharks and bony fish.

As per my previous review, I am taking another look at a rubber figure, this time by K&M International. This rubber epaulette shark is fascinating as not many toys exist for this genus, in fact, I have found more listings for purchasing the actual animal than for replicas of these creatures.

The toy has a total length of 196mm, this places the figure roughly in the 1:3-1:4.6 scale for the typical mature epaulette shark. The imprint stamp gives no indication of the species, but proper identification is actually viable in this case. Based off the main color and the number and size of the spots, this toy most closely resembles the Papuan epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium hallstromi).

I think the paintjob is generally handled quite well. The brown forms a nice light gradient towards the ventral body and the spots are fairly accurate. I initially thought the yellow eyes were inaccurate, but that is actually how the eyes look for most of the epaulette shark species. I have only two complaints: the lack of the characteristic large spot behind the pectoral fin and the pupils being round rather than slit.

The toy’s sculpt is mostly accurate in the overall proportions and basic anatomy of the epaulette shark, however it falters in a couple of notable details: there are no spiracles, the pectoral and pelvic fins are a bit too short, there are 4 gill slits instead of 5, the anal fin is not clearly partitioned from the caudal fin, and the mouth anatomy is quite off.

The mouth is sculpted in front of the head rather than directly below and it is also too large. On the plus side, the figure does have two little barbels. While scrutiny may reveal plenty of flaws in the details, they fail to compromise the overall appealing look of the figure.

My final opinion on this figure is that while containing a few flaws, the K&M International rubber epaulette shark still proves to be a worthy replica. This is especially true as epaulette sharks are not very well-represented animals in the toy industry. Unfortunately, obtaining one of these will require rigorous searching of the secondhand market.

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