Zebra shark

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

Not to be confused with the leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata.
iZebra shark

Conservation status

Vulnerable (VU)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Stegostomatidae
Gill, 1862
Genus: Stegostoma
Müller & Henle, 1837
Species: S. fasciatum
Binomial name
Stegostoma fasciatum
( Hermann, 1783)

The zebra shark, Stegostoma fasciatum, is a common carpet shark of inshore Indo-Pacific waters notable for its very long caudal fin, nearly as long as its body. It is the only species in the family Stegostomatidae and the genus Stegostoma.


The species is also mistaken for the leopard shark, a name which can refer to either of the species Stegostoma fasciatum or Triakis semifasciata which is a totally different shark from the eastern pacific. The name zebra shark is given because as a juvenile the shark have stripes like the zebra, when it grows up it turns into leopard-like spots. It is a very sleek and skinny shark, about 11.5 feet long.

Distribution and habitat

The zebra shark is found in the tropical Western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean at depths of about 5 to 30 meters.

Anatomy and appearance

In addition to the long tail, the zebra shark has distinctive ridges running down its body. As its names suggest, it is patterned; young sharks are dark with yellowish stripes, changing to an adult pattern of a tan colour with dark spots, found all over including the fins. The snout is rather rounded, with small barbels (whiskers). Maximum known length is about 230 cm.


The zebra shark is a slow-moving type, often just sitting on the seafloor in the vicinity of coral reefs, on sandy or rocky bottoms. Unlike most types of sharks, it does not need to move, and instead pumps water through its gills.


It feeds on molluscs, crustaceans, and small fish that it sucks out of the sand at night, and is capable of wiggling through small holes and crevices in its search for food.

Importance to humans

Zebra sharks do well in captivity, and a number of aquariums around the world have them on display. They are fished commercially on a small scale. They are often seen by scuba divers, and will lay still on the bottom as long as a diver does not come too close. They are harmless to divers as long as they are not disturbed.

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