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Threat Level: low
Scientific name.........Stegostoma Varium
Other names.............Leopard shark, variegated shark
Zebra sharks have a large, slender flexible ridged body with a unique banded (juvenile) or variable spotted (adult) pattern. Because of the adult coloration, it is also known as the leopards shark, and should not be confused with the other shark known as the leopard shark, a very different, cold water species from the houndshark family. They have a very long broad tail fin as long as the body. They have small barbels on its snout, a small mouth and small eyes, large spiracles. First dorsal fin set forwards on back, much larger than second. Anal fin close to tail. Prominent ridges run along its flanks.
These sharks can grow to a maximum of 11.5 feet (350cm) but rarely exceed 8.2 feet (250cm). Females mature at 5.5 to 5.6 feet, (169-171cm) males mature at 4.8 to 6 feet (147-183cm). This shark hatches at 7.8 to 10.6 feet (20-27cm).
Their teeth are pointed, with each tooth having smaller, lateral, flanking points.
The young have zebra-like stripes, (yellow on black) which give this shark its common name, they are dark brown above and yellowish below, with vertical yellow stripes and spots separating dark saddles, which break up into small brown spots. As it reaches adulthood it takes on yellowish brown color spotting and because of this adult coloration, it is also known as the leopard shark but cannot be confused with the other shark known as the leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata).
They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, small bony fishes, and possibly sea snakes. Because of its slender, flexible body they can squirm into crevices to search for food.
They are a sluggish species, more active at night, can swim strongly. They are usually solitary, aggregations are rare. May rest propped up on its pectoral fins during the day with its mouth open facing the current, it is believed to obtain oxygen more easily from the water.
Indo-west Pacific: tropical continental and insular shelves, eastern Africa to Japan, New Caledonia and Palau. They are found over tropical coral reefs and offshore sediments, intertidal to 214 feet (65m). Adults and large spotted juveniles rest in coral reef lagoons, and channels. Striped young are rarely seen and may be deeper in water greater than 165 feet (50m).
Zebra sharks are oviparous, lays large dark brown or purplish-black eggcases, measuring 5.1 to 7.9 inches (13-20cm) long, which are anchored to the bottom with fine tufts of fibres for attaching to the seabed. The time of hatching for the deposited egg is approximately 5 to 6 months.
Harmless, not aggressive and will not even bite if provoked, although divers should not harass them. It has been reported that in Phuket Island , and Thailand, they are commonly hand fed and some individuals allow divers to handle them and rub their stomachs.
Vulnerable. Relatively common, but taken in many fisheries, and its coral reef habitat is threatened.
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