Zebra Shark Facts
A-Z Collection of Cool Animals Challenge
Z is for Zebra Shark Facts
The zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) is a species of bottom-dwelling shark and the sole member of the family Stegostomatidae. It is found throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, from South Africa to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf (including Madagascar and the Maldives), to India and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Palau), northward to Taiwan and Japan, eastward to New Caledonia and Tonga, and southward to northern Australia.
Zebra Shark Facts
- The Zebra shark lives in coral reefs and sandy flats at about 210 feet (62 meters).
- Individual sharks have been known to travel up to 87 miles (140 km).
- Zebra sharks are nocturnal and spend most of the day sluggishly resting on the bottom of the sea. They do their hunting at night, searching for molluscs, crustaceans, small bony fishes, and possibly sea snakes, inside holes and crevices in the reef.
- They are solitary for most of the year, but form large seasonal aggregations of 20-50 individuals. Off southeast Queensland, aggregations of several hundred zebra sharks form every summer in shallow water. These aggregations consist entirely of large adults, with females outnumbering males by almost three to one. The purpose of these aggregations is yet unclear, and no definite mating behavior has been observed between the sharks.
- The zebra shark is oviparous: females produce several dozen large egg capsules, which they anchor to underwater structures via adhesive tendrils.
Zebra Shark Facts: Description
- The zebra shark has a cylindrical body with a large, slightly flattened head and a short, blunt snout.
- The eyes are small and placed on the sides of the head; the spiracles (a small hole behind each eye that opens to the mouth) are located behind them and are as large or larger.
- Each nostril has a short barbel and a groove running from it to the mouth.
- The mouth is nearly straight, with three lobes on the lower lip and furrows at the corners.
- There are 28–33 tooth rows in the upper jaw and 22–32 tooth rows in the lower jaw; each tooth has a large central cusp flanked by two smaller ones.
- Zebra Sharks grow to a length of 8.2 feet ( 2.5 meters). There is a record (unproved) of one reaching 11.5 feet (3.5 meters).
- The color pattern in young sharks is dark brown above and light yellow below, with vertical yellow stripes and spots. As the shark grows to 20-35 inches (50–90 cm) long, the dark areas begin to break up, changing the general pattern from light-on-dark stripes to dark-on-light spots.
- There is substantial variation in pattern amongst adults, which can be used to identify particular individuals.
- One rare albino zebra shark was discovered in 1964 in the Indian Ocean. It was a 6.3 foot (1.9 meter) long adult female.
- Zebra sharks are strong and agile swimmers, propelling themselves forward with eel-like movements.
- This species may be preyed upon by larger fishes and marine mammals.
Zebra Shark Facts – Reproduction
- The courtship behavior of the zebra shark consists of the male following the female and biting vigorously at her pectoral fins and tail, with periods in which he holds onto her pectoral fin and both sharks lie still on the bottom. On occasion this leads to mating, in which the male curls his body around the female and inserts one of his claspers into her cloaca. Copulation lasts for two to five minutes.
- The zebra shark is oviparous, with females laying large egg capsules measuring 7 inches (17 cm) long, 3 inches (8 cm) wide, and 2 inches (5 cm) thick. The egg case is dark brown to purple in color, and has hair-like fibers along the sides that secure it to the substrate.
- Females have been documented laying up to 46 eggs over a 112-day period. Eggs are deposited in batches of around four.
- Males attain sexual maturity at 4.9–5.9 feet (1.5–1.8 meters) long, and females at 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) long.
- The lifespan has been estimated to be 25–30 years in the wild.
Zebra Shark Facts – Human Interactions
Zebra sharks are not dangerous to humans and can be easily approached underwater. However, they have bitten divers who pull on their tails or attempt to ride them. They are popular attractions for ecotourist divers in the Red Sea, off the Maldives, off Thailand’s Phuket and Phi Phi islands, on the Great Barrier Reef, and elsewhere. Many zebra sharks at diving sites have become accustomed to the presence of humans, taking food from divers’ hands and allowing themselves to be touched. The zebra shark adapts well to captivity and is displayed by a number of public aquaria around the world. The small, attractively colored young also find their way into the hands of private hobbyists, though this species grows far too large for the home aquarium. (Wiki)
Zebra Shark Facts – Conservation Status
The World Conservation Union has assessed this species as Vulnerable worldwide, as it is taken by commercial fisheries across most of its range (except off Australia) for meat, fins, and liver oil. There is evidence that its numbers are dwindling.
Sources for Z is for Zebra Shark Facts: Wikipedia
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