The Zebra Shark is a sluggish slow-swimming fish that feeds primarily on gastropod and bivalve molluscs. It is unagressive when approached underwater and considered to be harmless.
The Zebra Shark has large pectoral fins, two close-set, spineless dorsal fins and a very long caudal fin that lacks a ventral lobe. It is a slow-moving species that has 5 gill slits (slits 4 and 5 overlap) and strong ridges along the upper sides. It is usually yellow-brown in colour with a covering of dark brown spots. Individuals less than 70 cm in length are brown with narrow yellow to white bars and blotches.
The Zebra Shark is often seen on sandy bottoms.
It is found in coastal waters throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific. In Australia it is recorded from the western coast of Western Australia, around the tropical north and south to the central coast of New South Wales.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
Feeding and diet
The Zebra Shark feeds primarily on gastropod and bivalve molluscs with lesser amounts of crabs, shrimps and small fishes.
The species is oviparous, laying large (17 cm in length), dark coloured egg cases that have tufts of hair-like fibres which serve to anchor them to the bottom.
- Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
- Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
- Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4, Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes: viii, 1-250.
- Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
- Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
- Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
- Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994 Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513.
- Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.