The Zebra Shark, also known as the Leopard Shark or Stegostoma Fasciatum, is a very interesting shark. Many have even been able to witness this creature first hand as many public aquariums have them in captivity.
This shark actually changes in appearance over its lifetime. Juveniles have stripes on their skin (hence the name “zebra”). But as they become adults, their skin becomes more spotted (hence the name “leopard”).
Zebra Shark Facts
Adults reach a length of about 2 to 3.5 meters (6.5 to 11.5ft) and weigh between 20 and 30 kilograms (44 to 66 pounds). These sharks have a lifespan of 25 to 35 years.
These are bottom dwellers and considered “carpet fish.” They have a great ability to breath easily while resting on the sea floor. Normally, they point towards the natural water flow and pump water through their gills without requiring any movement.
They love the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and are often found at coral reefs or sandy flats with depths up to 70 meters (230ft). Zebras prefer shallow water with sufficient places to hide and rest.
A Zebra spends most of its day resting on the sea floor. They are nocturnal hunters, so come nightfall, they get energized.
This slow swimmer uses an eel-like motion. With small mouths and strong jaws, they prefer preys like crab, mollusk, small bony fish, and shrimp.
Since this is a relatively small shark, they must constantly worry about being hunted the same time they are hunting. Other sharks and marine animals are known to eat Zebras.
Since they are oviparous, females produce up to 50 egg capsules within a 4 month period. The eggs are fixated onto corals or rocks until the pups hatch.
Humans fish for this shark both for sport and commercially for its flesh, fins, liver oil, as well as fish meal production.
There are also many kept in captivity in various aquariums around the world. There have been ethical questions about keeping this shark in an enclosed environment, but no direct ill health effects have been observed from a captive Zebra Shark.
The threat to humans is extremely low. This is a relatively slow, small, and non aggressive shark. There has only been one recorded case of an unsolicited attack. Most bites are the result of divers grabbing onto their tails or trying to ride them.