National Aquarium – Zebra shark

Zebra Shark

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These zebras lose their stripes! As juveniles, these sharks have dark bodies with yellowish stripes. As they mature, the pattern changes to small dark spots on a grayish-tan background. Because of this, zebra sharks are often mistakenly referred to as leopard sharks.

Two more features distinguish the zebra shark: the prominent ridges running the length of the body, and the impressive tail, which is nearly as long as the body itself.

Did You Know?

Once they reach adulthood, their stripes are replaced with small dark spots.


Zebra sharks feed mainly on reef mollusks and crustaceans as well as small fish.

This shark’s flexible body allows it to squirm into narrow crevices and reef channels in search of food.


The maximum reported size of a zebra shark is nearly 12 feet, though lengths of less than 7.5 feet are more common.


Zebra sharks are found around near-shore reefs of the western Pacific Ocean (Japan to Australia), the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea.

Population Status

Although this shark is not listed as threatened or endangered, it is regularly taken in by inshore fisheries, and thus may be vulnerable to decline.


With the exception of some other large sharks, few predators could tackle an adult zebra shark.

As with other sharks, humans are the biggest threat. Zebra shark meat, collected by inshore fisheries, is sold both fresh and salt-dried, and is used in fishmeal. The livers are processed for vitamins, and the fins are dried for the shark-fin trade.

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Holly Bourbon
Curator of Large-Fish Exhibits/Diving Safety Officer

As the curator of large-fish exhibits, Holly's day-to-day responsibilities include managing our staff of aquarists and making sure that all of the animals under our care are doing well! Learn More

A Note From the Caretaker

One of the Aquarium's zebra sharks, Zoe, is partially blind, so we trained her to respond to sounds, so we can call her to a station when we feed her.

National Aquarium - Immersion Tours

Sleepover with the Sharks

Sharks will be lurking close by as you attempt to sleep through the night!

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