The Zebra Shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) is a marine (saltwater) fish in the Stegostomatidae family of carpet sharks. It is an elasmobranch cartilaginous fish — a fish that does not have a bony skeleton.
A leucistic Zebra Shark has reduced colouring, but not complete albinism. An albino lacks colour (it looks white) and has pink eyes. A leucistic animal is light or white, but does not have pink eyes. It has brown, blue, or green eyes.
The Zebra Shark has a slim, cylindrical body with a slightly flattened head, and a short, blunt snout (nose). A regular Zebra Shark is pale with a pattern of dark spots. It has five ridges along its body. It eyes are small and its nose has short barbels (like whiskers) from each nostril. Its mouth is almost straight with rows of sharp teeth. It has gill slits on the sides of its body to breathe underwater.
It grows to 250 centimetres (98 inches) in length.
It is found in tropical waters in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It prefers coral reefs and sandy flats.
It is benthic, which means that it is a bottom-dweller.
It is nocturnal, active at night. It hunts at night for food, such as fish, snails, crabs, octopus, squid, and sea snakes. Its slender, flexible body enables it to wriggle into narrow holes and crevices in search of food. During the day, it rests motionless on the sea floor.
The Zebra Shark is usually solitary or it forms small groups of 20-50 individuals.
The Zebra Shark is oviparous. The female lays up to 46 egg capsules which anchor onto plants and objects in the water. The eggs hatch after 120-180 days.
Young Zebra Sharks, called hatchlings, have a completely different pattern than their parents, consisting of light vertical stripes on a brown background. The colour pattern is dark-brown above and light-yellow below, with vertical yellow stripes and spots. So, young Zebra Sharks have stripes, but adult Zebra Sharks have spots.
Their lifespan has been estimated to be 25–30 years.
Location of photographs: New York Aquarium, America. The leucistic Zebra Shark in the New York Aquarium is named Captain Spaulding.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM