Animals / Fishes - All Types of Fish Species / Chimaeras, Sharks, Skates and Rays / Zebra Sharks - From Zebra Stripes to Leopard Spots

Zebra Sharks - From Zebra Stripes to Leopard Spots

zebra shark


The zebra shark is a medium sized member of the shark family with distinctive markings. It is found in warm coastal waters and among tropical coral reefs. They are commonly found in the Indian and South Pacific oceans. They can grow up to 11 feet (3.3 m) in length and can live up to 30 years in the wild. Sadly, if they are caught and kept in zoos they are unlikely to live any longer than 15 years.

Zebra sharks have long flat bodies which help camouflage them on the ocean floor. They also have long tails which increase their agility in the water. When swimming, they move their tales from side to side in an eel-like motion, looking very graceful. They are recognizable by their spots, but their coloring changes quite significantly as they age. When younger they have dark bodies with yellowish stripes but when they get older they look more like leopards with yellow bodies and dark spots. They are also sometimes called leopard sharks although there is another species by that name.



young zebra shark

Young specimen with stripes


juvenile zebra shark changing colors

Juvenile with half stripes, half spots


Zebra sharks are 100% carnivorous and solely eat meat. They feed on small fish, crabs, crustaceans, sea snails and other invertebrates. They forage for their prey among the coral reefs.


zebra sharks anatomy


As a larger oceanic species, the zebra shark has very few predators. In fact they are dominant predators in their environments and their only predators tend to be larger species of shark such as the bull and tiger sharks. Of course, there is one other predator – man, who hunts them for their fins and meat.


leopard shark


The female zebra shark lays up to ten large eggs at a time. Each of these eggs can be up to 7 inches (17 cm) long. The eggs usually hatch after an incubation period of between 4 and 12 weeks depending on where they are laid. The offspring can measure up to 14 inches (36 cm) in length, much of this length is made up by their tails which are proportionally longer when they’re first born.


adult zebra shark


The zebra shark is not a danger to man. Usually docile and slow they are fine to be left alone to get on with their lives. They have been known to bite only if people interfere with their swimming or attempt to mount them, although no bites have been recorded as fatal.




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