Zebra Shark

Common Name: Zebra Shark
Scientific Name: Physeter macrocephalus

Zebra Shark - Description

This fairly docile species grows to at least 2.4m in length, and possibly up to 3.5m. Juveniles less than 70cm in length are brown with narrow yellow to white bars and blotches (this is why they are called a Zebra Shark). These markings change as the animal grows into an adult and the bars are replaced with a covering of dark brown spots on a background of yellow-brown, hence their other common name, the Leopard Shark. Only the adults have the characteristic spotted pattern. The Zebra Shark has large pectoral fins, two close-set, dorsal fins and a very long caudal fin that lacks a ventral lobe. It is a slow-moving species that has 5 gill slits and strong ridges running lengthwise along the upper side.

Zebra Shark - Diet

The Zebra Shark feeds mainly on small fish, crustaceans and molluscs and mostly at night.

Zebra Shark - Behaviour

The Zebra Shark is a docile species that spends a lot of time sitting on the seabed. It has the ability to pump water over its gills when stationary, however, they tend to face into currents to assist with their breathing.

Zebra Shark - Habitat

The Zebra Shark is a bottom dwelling shark largely found on reefs to a depth of 62m.

Zebra Shark - Life History

Zebra Sharks are oviparous (they lay eggs outside of the body). It lays eggs that are 17cm in length. The eggs are dark coloured and have tufts of hair attached which serve to anchor them to the bottom. The young are 20 - 26 cm in length when they hatch. All sharks receive no parental care and are fully developed and independent when they are born or hatch. They often occupy 'nursery areas' where food is abundant and predators are not. Young Zebra Sharks are rarely seen, and these may prefer to live in deeper waters.

Location or Region Found

The Zebra Shark is found in coastal waters throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific. In Australia they are recorded from the coast of Western Australia, around the tropical north and south to the central coast of New South Wales.