Animals

Fin-tastic Facts About The Zebra Shark For Kids

Zebra shark facts about the rare endangered shark
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There are more than 400 known species of sharks on earth, with their existence dating back to about 420 million years ago. Humankind has always been afraid of sharks because of their predatory nature. However, not all species with the designation of shark are as threatening and dangerous. Zebra Sharks fall in this category. The zebra shark, scientifically known as the Stegostoma fasciatum, is quite an intriguing and interesting shark species to know about. It is a species of carpet shark found resting on the sea floor in tropical and coastal waters. As nocturnal bottom-feeders and dwellers, the Zebra Sharks are usually seen resting on the seafloor or calmly cruising over tropical coral reefs during the day. Young zebra sharks sport yellowish stripes, but these change to small black dots as they become adults. Due to the presence of black dots their appearance closely resembles that of a leopard. After reading this article of zebra shark, do check out the articles on Caribbean reef shark and drum fish as well.

Zebra shark

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Sea urchins, crabs, snails, and small fishes

What do they eat?

Omnivores

Average litter size?

9-10

How much do they weigh?

44-66 lb

How long are they?

8 ft


How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

Flat head, moderate stout and a cylindrical body covered with vertical yellow stripes; in an adult, the yellow strips are replaced by small black spots

Skin Type

Smooth skin.

What are their main threats?

Large sharks, water pollution.

What is their conservation status?

Endangered

Where you'll find them

Zebra shark habitat: Coral reefs, sandy zones, and marine rubble

Locations

Indo-Pacific Ocean. Tropical waters around Madagascar, Maldives, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Palau, Taiwan, Japan, New Caledonia, Tonga, and Australia

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Chondrichthyes

Scientific Name

Stegostoma fasciatum

Family

Stegostomatidae

Genus

Stegostoma

Zebra Shark Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a zebra shark?

The zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum is an aquatic animal. They are basically cartilaginous fishes, found mostly in marine and brackish water bodies and rarely in freshwater. The zebra sharks are the sole member belonging to the Stegostomatidae family, of the species of carpet sharks. They are docile, bottom-dwelling, gentle fishes found mostly in the ocean beds of tropical water bodies. Being nocturnal animals, the zebra sharks spend their days lazing and the nights actively hunting around the ocean floor and eating. The lifespan of a zebra shark can extend up to 30 years. They are also non-aggressive predators.

What class of animal does a zebra shark belong to?

The zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum belongs to class Chondrichthyes; that is fishes that possess skeletons composed  primarily of cartilage.

How many zebra sharks are there in the world?

There is not any official estimate on the total number of zebra sharks present in the world. There are different varieties of these sharks present in the oceans including zebra bullhead shark and zebra horn shark.

Where does a zebra shark live?

The zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum habitat is in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, particularly around coral reefs and sandy flats.

What is a zebra shark's habitat?

The zebra sharks are inshore species, living on sand, rock reefs, and coral bottoms. They have been recorded to dwell mostly in marine and brackish waters and only sometimes in freshwater habitats.

Who do zebra sharks live with?

The zebra sharks live with other marine organisms such as crabs, urchins, fishes, squids, and more in the oceanic habitat.

How long does a zebra shark live?

The average lifespan of zebra sharks is about 25-30 years.

How do they reproduce?

Zebra sharks are oviparous organisms; that is the young ones are produced from eggs. Internal reproduction takes place in zebra sharks. Zebra sharks reach maturity when the males grow up to eight feet while the females reach the maximum length of six feet. During zebra shark reproduction, the male zebra shark approaches the female and shows interest by snapping at their tails. The male attaches to the females by grasping the female pectoral fins and they lie together for a given time period on the ocean floor. Eventually, the male zebra shark transfers sperm to the female cloaca by using claspers.

The female zebra sharks can lay up to four eggs at a time. During each mating season, a single female can lay up to 46 eggs in the total time span of about 112 days from which the juvenile zebra shark will hatch. Zebra shark egg case is dark brown to purple in color. Interestingly, there have been some rare instances of zebra shark asexual reproduction as well.

What is their conservation status?

Zebra sharks are listed as endangered species by the IUCN Red List. The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the status of the world’s biodiversity, a powerful tool to inform and catalyze the conservation of biodiversity. It is released by the Global environmental union, IUCN. The IUCN, or International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a global environmental organization formed to bring together the governmental and non-governmental agencies, to work in a partnership with the common goal of conservation of nature and natural resources.

The IUCN Red List places the species of the zebra sharks as vulnerable to extinction. The population of zebra sharks is declining largely due to coral reef habitat loss and human activities, such as hunting and overfishing. They are preyed upon for a number of benefits.

Zebra Shark Fun facts

What do zebra sharks look like?

The zebra shark is a large, distinctive shark with a moderate stout, a cylindrical and flexible body. They are born with yellowish stripes on their bodies, however, as they reach maturity, these are replaced by black spots. The biologists believe the stripes on the body serve as camouflage, offering protection from predators as well as prey. The zebra sharks have flat heads with five small gill slits, of which three are located behind the origin point of the pectoral fins. They have five prominent ridges running along the dorsal surface and flanks. The adult zebra Sharks can be of brown, grey, white or yellow skin tone with dark black spots, which gives them a leopard like appearance. The young ones are dark in color with stripes, giving the species its name of zebra Shark.

Zebra shark is primarily found near the seafloor.

How cute are they?

The zebra sharks, with their leopard-like appearance during adulthood and zebra-like resemblance during  juvenile stage, are quite spectacular to look at.

How do they communicate?

Like other sharks, zebra sharks communicate through their body language. Their communicative signs include nodding of the head, flapping of the tail, and also opening the mouth.

How big is a zebra shark?

The zebra sharks reach a maximum length of about 2.5 m or 8.2 ft, taller than an average camel.

How fast can a zebra shark swim?

The zebra sharks are slow-swimming shark species.

How much does a zebra shark weigh?

The zebra Sharks, on an average, weigh between 44-66 lb.

What are their male and female names of the species?

As the zebra shark is an aquatic animal belonging to the species of carpet sharks, a male zebra shark is referred to as male zebra sharks while females are referred to as female zebra sharks.

What would you call a baby zebra shark?

The progeny of zebra sharks born from zebra shark eggs are referred to as pups. These pups hatch from zebra egg cases which the female lays near the sea floor.

What do they eat?

The zebra sharks are omnivorous animals, surviving on meat as well as plants. They prey upon smaller organisms such as shelled mollusks, snails, squid, crustaceans, small bony fish, and sea snakes. Zebra sharks suck their prey up by the powerful muscles of the buccal cavity.

Are they dangerous?

One of the most interesting zebra bullhead shark facts is that zebra sharks are gentle and docile fishes and pose no threat to humans. However, they may bite if provoked.

Would they make a good pet?

Zebra sharks require a large water body to survive and thrive, as such it is not possible to keep them as pet at homes for humans. They are natural predators and hence must be handled by trained personnel only. Moreover, as it is an endangered species, it is advisable to not adopt them as pet anyways. However, they can be kept as pet in an aquarium where kids and adults can go to enjoy their beauty.

Did you know...

According to present record, the longest adult zebra shark is reported to be 3.5m (11ft.) — twice the height of an average tall horse.

Sharks sink if they stop swimming, since they don't have gas-filled swim bladders that provide buoyancy.  

Due to their flexible and slim bodies, the zebra sharks can squeeze into narrow crevices in search of food, but they’re also very lethargic and being nocturnal animals spend most of their time resting on the ocean bed.

In 1973, an albino zebra shark was discovered in the Indian Ocean.

Often, the leopard sharks and zebra sharks are confused to be the same.

Why is the zebra shark endangered?

The zebra sharks are facing the threat to extinction due to a number of reasons that we will list. Zebra sharks are hunted for their meat which is sold fresh, or dried and salted for consumption. The liver oil of zebra shark is used to manufacture vitamins. Overfishing is another, as the fins of zebra sharks are used for fin soup and in traditional Chinese medicines. The depletion and loss of zebra shark habitat adds to their risk. Hence, for humans, zebra shark care is extremely essential to prevent this species from becoming extinct.

How many teeth does a zebra shark have?

The zebra sharks have short snout mouths jammed with 50-65 teeth, perfect for their zebra shark diet in accordance to their zebra shark size. They are regarded as non-aggressive predators and Zebra shark teeth are extremely sharp and help in crushing the exoskeleton of the prey.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including pumpkinseed sunfish, or longhorn cowfish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Zebra shark coloring pages.

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