Zebra shark - Stegostoma fasciatum


Illustration © Marc Dando

A large, slender shark with a large broad tail as long as its body. Its body has very distinct ridges and spots.

The young are yellowish below, dark brown above with vertical yellow stripes and spots separating dark saddles. These saddles break up into spots in sharks 20 to 35 inches [50 to 90 cm] in length, and are more uniformly distributed on large sharks.

The shark is approximately 8 to 14 inches [20 cm to 36 cm] when hatched. Males mature between 4.7 to 6 ft [147 to 183 cm], while females mature around 5.5 to 5.75 ft [169 to 171 cm]. Most of these sharks average slightly more than 8 ft [2.5 m], and maximum size is thought to be just over 11 ft [3.5 m].

Coral reefs and offshore sediments. Intertidal to 203 ft [62 m]. Adults and juveniles rest in coral reef lagoons and channels, but the striped young are rarely seen and may be in deeper water (>50 m).

Indo-west Pacific; tropical and continental and insular shelves, eastern Africa to Japan, New Caledonia and Palau.


  • Prey – Mollusks, crustaceans and small bony fishes.

  • Reproduction – Oviparous. Lays large dark brown to purple-black egg cases anchored to the bottom with tufts of fibers.

Often seen resting, propped up on their pectoral fins, mouth open, facing the current. Tend to be sluggish by day and more active at night.

Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They are taken in many fisheries and their coral reef habitat is threatened. They are kept in aquaria.