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Zebra sharks are calm fish that frequent tropical coral reefs. They spend their days resting and their evenings foraging and feeding on the ocean floor.

The zebra shark population is plummeting due to climate change and human activity. Let’s learn about these fish in our article, zebra shark facts for kids. 

Scientific Classification of Zebra Sharks

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Chondrichthyes

Superorder: Selachimorpha

Order: Orectolobiformes

Family: Stegostomatidae

Genus: Stegostoma

Species: S. tigrinum

Zebra Shark Facts for Kids 1-11

1. Zebra sharks are born with stripes that are dark brown and golden.

As zebra sharks mature, their stripes are replaced with little black spots on a tan body.

2. Zebra sharks are crepuscular. At night, they vigorously search reef cracks and holes for mollusks, crabs, and tiny bony fish.

During the day, they are slow and are frequently observed resting on the ocean floor.

3. Barbels, which are slender sensory organs that resemble cat whiskers and are positioned in front of their snouts, assist them to find prey.

They utilize their flexible bodies to squeeze into narrow crevices where their preferred prey is frequently hidden.

4. The male zebra shark engages in courting by aggressively biting the female’s pectoral fins and tail.

5. The zebra shark lays eggs. Females may produce many eggs simultaneously, which they attach to underwater objects or the seafloor via sticky threads.

Pups are typically approximately 12 inches long at birth, while adults may reach heights of 12 feet.

6. Adult zebra sharks are non-aggressive toward people and have few natural predators except larger shark species and humans.

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7. IUCN lists zebra sharks as globally Endangered because they are hunted for their flesh, fins, and liver oil (which is used to make vitamins).

The exception is Australia, where the species is regarded as Least Concern because of its extensive range and light fishing pressure.

Every summer, hundreds of zebra sharks gather in the shallow seas off the coast of southeast Queensland.

8. Typically, zebra sharks are found on sand near coral and rocky reefs as deep as 63 meters (203 feet) (62 m).

9. In aquaria, zebra sharks attain a maximum length of over 8 feet (2.5 m) and live for over 28 years.

10. Zebra sharks are sometimes mistaken for leopard sharks due to the fact that they are born dark brown with white bars across their body but grow into bright yellow with little black patches.

11. However, zebra sharks have also been observed in brackish and freshwater environments.

Zebra Shark Facts for Kids 12-22

zebra shark swimming alone
By Theo Kruse CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

12. Zebra sharks may forage for food in tight crevices, but they are also quite sedentary and spend much of their time resting on the bottom.

13. Female zebra sharks may spawn without males. They can do it by themselves, and the process is called parthenogenesis!

14. Zebra sharks have flat heads with little eyes on each side, short snout mouths with 50 to 65 teeth, and cylindrical bodies that can twist and twirl like an acrobat. 

15. In general, zebra sharks are tolerant of humans and allow us to approach them.

They will even take food from a diver’s hand and let themselves be petted!

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16. Zebra sharks are mostly solitary animals that occasionally form groups. Each summer, hundreds of zebra sharks congregate in shallow seas off the coast of Queensland.

There are three times as many females present, yet no mating appears to occur.

Although the ceremony has been investigated, it has left experts baffled.

17. The zebra shark’s diet consists of mollusks, sea urchins, snails, squids, crabs, crustaceans, tiny bony fish, and sea snakes.

And because of their flexible and slender bodies, zebra sharks are able to slink into crevices when looking for prey.

18. During mating season, male zebra sharks pursue females and demonstrate their desire by biting their tails. Males bond with females by grabbing their pectoral fins as they encounter.

The couple then remains motionless together on the ocean floor for some time.

A few minutes later, the male wraps himself around the female and puts one of his claspers (modified pelvic fins) into her cloaca.

19. Females deposit around four brown or purple eggs at a time, which are surrounded by a thin covering of hair that adheres to the nesting surface.

During the mating season, a single female may deposit up to 46 eggs over the course of 112 days.

20. Depending on the temperature, eggs incubate for five to six months before releasing hatchlings measuring 20 to 30 centimeters (7.9 to 14.2 inches) in length.

21. Baby zebra sharks are referred to as “pups” and are born looking significantly different than they will as adults.

At hatching, they are between 20 and 30 centimeters (7.9 to 14.2 inches) long and are sometimes mistaken for newborn bullhead sharks, which likewise have yellow stripes on brown skin and are between 7 and 9 inches long.

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22. When protected from human-caused habitat degradation and other lethal situations, zebra sharks can live between 25 and 30 years.

Some research implies that captive animals may have shorter lifetimes.

Sources: 1, 2

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