Scientific name.........Stegostoma Varium
Other names.............Leopard shark, variegated shark
Zebra sharks have a large, slender flexible ridged body with a
unique banded (juvenile) or variable spotted (adult) pattern.
Because of the adult coloration, it is also known as the leopards
shark, and should not be confused with the other shark known as the
leopard shark, a very different, cold water species from the
houndshark family. They have a very long broad tail fin as long as
the body. They have small barbels on its snout, a small mouth and
small eyes, large spiracles. First dorsal fin set forwards on back,
much larger than second. Anal fin close to tail. Prominent ridges
run along its flanks.
These sharks can grow to a maximum of 11.5 feet (350cm) but rarely
exceed 8.2 feet (250cm). Females mature at 5.5 to 5.6 feet,
(169-171cm) males mature at 4.8 to 6 feet (147-183cm). This shark
hatches at 7.8 to 10.6 feet (20-27cm).
Their teeth are pointed, with each tooth having smaller, lateral,
The young have zebra-like stripes, (yellow on black) which give this
shark its common name, they are dark brown above and yellowish
below, with vertical yellow stripes and spots separating dark
saddles, which break up into small brown spots. As it reaches
adulthood it takes on yellowish brown color spotting and because of
this adult coloration, it is also known as the leopard shark but
cannot be confused with the other shark known as the leopard shark (Triakis
They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, small bony fishes, and possibly
sea snakes. Because of its slender, flexible body they can squirm
into crevices to search for food.
They are a sluggish species, more active at night, can swim
strongly. They are usually solitary, aggregations are rare. May rest
propped up on its pectoral fins during the day with its mouth open
facing the current, it is believed to obtain oxygen more easily from
Indo-west Pacific: tropical continental and insular shelves, eastern
Africa to Japan, New Caledonia and Palau. They are found over
tropical coral reefs and offshore sediments, intertidal to 214 feet
(65m). Adults and large spotted juveniles rest in coral reef
lagoons, and channels. Striped young are rarely seen and may be
deeper in water greater than 165 feet (50m).
Zebra sharks are oviparous, lays large dark brown or purplish-black
eggcases, measuring 5.1 to 7.9 inches (13-20cm) long, which are
anchored to the bottom with fine tufts of fibres for attaching to
the seabed. The time of hatching for the deposited egg is
approximately 5 to 6 months.
Harmless, not aggressive and will not even bite if provoked,
although divers should not harass them. It has been reported that in
Phuket Island , and Thailand, they are commonly hand fed and some
individuals allow divers to handle them and rub their stomachs.
Vulnerable. Relatively common, but taken in many fisheries, and its
coral reef habitat is threatened.