These zebras lose their stripes! As juveniles, zebra 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.
One of the zebra sharks at the National Aquarium, Zoe, is partially blind, so we trained her to respond to sounds. We can call her to a station when we feed her.
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Learn more about zebra sharks! Did you know that zebra sharks are nocturnal? They hunt at night.
Zebra sharks are found in the western Pacific Ocean from Japan to Australia, as well as the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
Zebra sharks feed mainly on 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.
Conservation alert! The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists the zebra shark as endangered.
With the exception of some other large shark species, few predators could take on an adult zebra shark. As with other sharks, humans are the biggest threat to zebra sharks. Their meat is sold fresh and salt-dried and is used in fishmeal. Their livers are processed for vitamins, and fins are dried for the shark-fin trade.
The National Aquarium—and the aquatic world—is full of amazing animals like this one.