Zebra Sharks, Stegostoma fasciatum
Taxonomy Animalia Chordata Elasmobranchii Orectolobiformes Stegostomatidae Stegostoma fasciatum
Description & Behavior
Zebra sharks, Stegostoma fasicatum (Hermann, 1783), are also known as leopard sharks in Southeast Asia. The zebra shark has a cylindrical body with prominent ridges on the sides and 5 gill slits (slits 4 and 5 overlap). The tail lacks a ventral lobe and it is as long as the body. This shark has a broad head, small barbels, and a transverse mouth located in front of the eyes. Its spiracles are as large as its eyes. The spineless dorsal fins are back to back. The anterior dorsal fin is much larger than the posterior dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin appears above the bases of pelvic fins, the second dorsal fin is about as large as the anal fin. The body is gray-brown with dark spots in adults. Juveniles are darker with light stripes and spots. Maximum size is about 3.5 m, average size between 2.5-3 m.
World Range & Habitat
Zebra sharks, Stegostoma fasicatum, are found in the Indo-Western Pacific: South Africa to Red Sea and Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, China, Japan, Australia, New Caledonia, Palau. Lives over the continental and insular (island) shelves. Very common around coral reefs, often on sandy bottoms, but little is known about their biology. It is known that this species props itself up its pectorals in the sand and faces the current with open mouth. Such behavior and its inactivity during the day points towards a more sluggish life style and indicates that it is probably a nocturnal hunter. Recorded to have entered freshwater.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
They feed primarily on snails and other mollusks, but also on crabs, shrimps, and small bony fishes.
Zebra sharks are egg layers (oviparous). Egg cases are large (17 cm long, 8 cm wide, 5 cm thick). It is unknown if the female lays more than one egg at a time, but it is most likely. Pups hatch size is between 20-36 cm. Males reach sexual maturity between about 1.5-1.8 m, females around 1.7 m.
Conservation Status & Comments
Harmless. This species is regularly taken in inshore fisheries and a decline is likely (no data) if not in progress. Utilized fresh and dried-salted for human consumption and also for fishmeal; livers processed for vitamins; fins cut off and sold for the asian sharkfin trade.
References & Further Research
Research Stegostoma fasciatum » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
Feedback & Citation
Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!
Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life
Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences.
With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.