Leopard shark (Zebra shark)

Stegostoma fasciatum

Description

Zebra sharks get their name from their juvenile appearance: dark bodies with yellowish stipes. As they become adults their coloring changes to a light tan with small dark spots. This adult appearance leads to them often being mistakenly called Leopard sharks. The Zebra shark has a distinctive long tail that is almost as long as the body and prominent ridges that run the length of the body.

Classification:

Leopard shark resting on sandy bottomKingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Stegostomatidae
Genus: Stegostoma

Maximum Size: 235cm (possibly to 354cm)

Habitat & Range

 Zebra sharks are found in the Pacific Ocean, between Japan and Australia and in the Indian Ocean, between the Red Sea and Australia. Zebra sharks live in tropical waters and inhabit sandy or coral bottoms between 0 – 206 feet (0 – 63 metres) deep. They are usually encountered by divers while resting on the bottom and can sometimes be seen swimming slowly (particularly at night).

Leopard shark juvenilleDiet

Zebra sharks mainly feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and small bony fish. Their flexible body allows them to work their way into narrow coral channels and crevices to search for food.

Lifespan

Zebra sharks live to approximately 9 years when held in small tanks and up to 25 years when held in large aquarium tanks. It is believed that they live to 30 years in the wild.

Predators

Zebra sharks may be vulnerable to other large sharks, but are most threatened by humans.

Red List Status: Vulnerable

Sources:

Zebra Shark (2007, December 19) FishBase
Zebra Shark (2007, December 19) Aqua.org
Zebra Shark (2007, December 19) University of Michigan

Leopard shark head