Facts about Zebra Sharks

They're Nothing Like Their Name: Awesome Facts About Zebra Sharks

Zebra sharks are one the most distinctively patterned, and calmest species of sharks. Read on to know more about these wonderful fish.
Did You Know?
Zebra sharks are born with stripes, but the pattern changes to dark spots once they reach adulthood!

Sharks are amazing marine animals. These ancient creatures have lived in the ocean for the last 350 million years and, in fact, have survived the cataclysmic events that wiped out dinosaurs. Sharks are very intelligent creatures and are said to have a learning capacity similar to that of rats and birds. Unlike other fish, sharks have skeletons made of cartilage rather than bones. This ensures better agility for these fine-tuned hunters.

Zebra Sharks, sometimes called leopard sharks in Southeast Asia, are found in the Indian and the Western Pacific ocean: All the way from South Africa to Southeast Asia and Oceania. Mainly centered around the tropics, it often inhabits the rich ecosystems of coral reefs.

Zebra Sharks are classified as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Elasmobranchii
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Stegostomatidae
Genus: Stegostoma
Species: S. fasciatum / S. varium

►► Zebra sharks can grow up to a length of 2.5 m, and can weigh up to 30 kg.

►► Zebra Sharks are primarily nocturnal, and spend the day near the bottom of the ocean. They frequent a depth of 60 - 70 m.

►► Unlike a majority of shark species, zebra sharks are oviparous, i.e., the female lays eggs.

►► The juveniles of this species have dark bodies with faint, yellowish-white stripes. As mentioned earlier, the pattern changes to spots once they reach adulthood.

►► Due to the vivid pattern, zebra sharks are included among a group of sharks known as carpet sharks, since the pattern resembles the ornate designs on a carpet.

►► Apart from larger sharks, zebra sharks have no natural predator.

►► They are also known as monkey-mouth sharks in India. They have earned this expressive name due to the pseudo-facial features on the underside of their head.

►► The caudal fins (tail fins) of Zebra sharks can grow to be as long as their body.

►► Zebra sharks have two well-defined ridges which originate from the head, run along the length of the body till the caudal fin.

►► Reef mollusks and crustaceans such as snails and slugs are the favorite meal of a Zebra shark, as well as small bony fish.

►► They can squirm into narrow crevices and reef channels when searching for food, due to their flexible body. This enables them to prey upon the agile sea snakes.

►► Zebra sharks are oviparous. Females lay numerous eggs, which are dark brown or purplish-black. Although the number of eggs may vary, they are generally found in batches of four.

►► Zebra sharks are not at all dangerous to humans. They are slow-moving and docile creatures, and do not attack humans unless provoked; no spontaneous attack on a human has been recorded.

►► These creatures adapt quickly to captive conditions and are popular in aquariums due to their beautiful patterns. Home aquariums, however, are not the place for these gentle giants, who will quickly outgrow them.

►► Zebra sharks can live up to 15-20 years in captivity, while they can survive for more than 30 years in their natural habitat.

►► These sharks, like many others, are hunted for their meat, fish oil and fishmeal.

Zebra sharks are a stark contrast to the terrifying great whites portrayed in Jaws. Zebra sharks are harmless creatures, who will bite only if provoked or irritated. In fact, zebra sharks are popular in tourist destinations, where they have become accustomed to tourists feeding and even touching them.