Species Details

Details of Zebra shark will be displayed below

Zebra shark   

Common Name: Zebra shark
Scientific Name: Stegostoma tigrinum
Local Name: Faana miyaru
Dhivehi Name: ފާނަމިޔަރު
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Stegostomidae  (Family)
Stegostoma   (Genus)

Zebra shark's description

The zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) (formerly as: Stegostoma fasciatum) is a species of carpet shark and the sole member of the family Stegostomatidae.

Distinctive Characters: Long caudal fin, about half the total length. Small barbells on either side of small mouth. First dorsal set well back and much larger than second. Prominent ridges on sides of body.
Colour: Adults pale brown with dark spots. Juveniles dark brown with vertical yellow stripes.

Zebra shark's facts

Did you know?

  • The zebra shark (Stegostoma tigrinum) is not a very common shark in Maldives, but is occasionally seen resting on the bottom by divers.

Zebra shark habitat

The Zebra Shark occurs in tropical and subtropical, shallow inshore and offshore waters, often found on and around coral and rocky reefs and on sandy plateaus near coral, at depths down to at least 62 m. They are often observed resting on the bottom as well as swimming near the surface as both juveniles and adults.

The Zebra Shark demonstrates seasonal movement patterns in subtropical locations towards the latitudinal extent of their distribution (Dudgeon et al. 2013). Regular seasonal movements of over 1,000 km and a larger movement of over 2,000 km along the Queensland coast in Australian waters have been recorded using acoustic tracking methods (C. Dudgeon, unpublished data). Aggregations along coastal sites in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales occur during the warmer months of each year (Dudgeon et al. 2008, Dudgeon et al. 2013). The species demonstrates strong site fidelity to particular reefs in Australia (Dudgeon et al. 2013) and Thailand (Spot the Leopard Shark Thailand, unpublished data), which may make them more susceptible to targeted fishing.

The Zebra Shark is an oviparous species. Size at birth ranges between 20 and 36 cm total length (TL). Reproductive periodicity in the wild is unknown. Captive aquaria animals have demonstrated annual egg laying periods of up to 3 months with 40–80 eggs laid per year (Robinson et al. 2011) with up to 25% of eggs resulting in hatchlings (Squire Jnr, pers. comm., 22 Jul 2014). Age of maturity of captive female sharks is approximately 6-8 years of age based on the commencement of egg laying (Thomas, pers. comm., 18 Feb 2015; Robinson, pers. comm., 11 Jan 2015) and 7 years of age for males (Watson, pers. comm., 18 Feb 2015). Adults reach a maximum size of 246 cm TL with no sexual dimorphism evident (Dudgeon et al. 2008) and live over 28 years in aquaria (Thomas, pers. comm., 17 Feb 2015). Generation length estimates based on 6 years first age at maturity and 28 years maximum longevity for female sharks is 17 years.

Zebra shark threats

The Zebra Shark is susceptible to capture in a wide range of inshore fisheries and although there is no direct evidence of population decline in the Indo-West Pacific, market surveys suggest this species is much less common than it used to be (L.J.V Compagno and W.T. White, pers. comms., 2003, Pillans and Simpfendorfer 2003). Surveys from 2004-2012 in Thailand indicate that the Zebra Shark is regularly landed at fish markets on the Andaman Sea but was not recorded from the Gulf of Thailand (Krajandara 2014). However, photographs show Zebra Shark available for auction at the Samut-Sakorn fish market near Bangkok in Thailand in 2012 (Arthur Jones Dionio, pers. comm). The geographic origin of these animals is unknown as Thai fleets also operate in foreign waters (Chen 1996). The Zebra Shark is reported from fisheries operating out of Taiwan (Chen et al. 1997), Myanmar (SEAFDEC 2004), Bangladesh (Hoq et al. 2014), India (Theisavigamani and Subbiah 2014), the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea (Valinassab et al. 2006, Henderson et al. 2007), and Zanzibar (Shehe and Jiddawi 1997). Fish market surveys in Indonesia during April 2001-March 2006 recorded 77 Zebra Sharks with almost all coming from trawl fishery bycatch in Jakarta (Dharmadi et al. 2015).

Anecdotal reports suggest that a substantial decrease in Zebra Shark sightings in the Berau Archipelago, East Kalimantan was from fishers using a free diving harpooning catch method targeting Zebra Shark (Erdmann, pers. comm., 23 March 2015). Genetic analyses (DNA barcoding) of shark fins collected during market surveys conducted across Indonesia from mid 2012 to mid 2014 found the vast majority of landed species were pelagic sharks with common reef and carpet sharks (including Zebra Sharks) extremely rare. Given the extensive shallow coastal habitat around Indonesia that would support the reef and carpet shark species, the authors conclude that this is a strong indication of the collapse of reef shark populations in Indonesia, most likely due to overfishing (Semibiring et al. 2015). Documented large declines in shark and ray catches associated with corresponding increases in fishing effort in the Java Sea (Blaber et al. 2009) are likely to have a large impact on the Zebra Shark in Indonesian waters and may be representative of fishing impacts across the region.

Legal and illegal fishing pressure has increased substantially in the Arafura Sea over the last 30 years (Resosudarmo et al. 2009). Trawling was banned in 1980 in all waters of the Indonesian 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone west of longitude 130 E. This resulted in concentrated trawling pressure in the eastern part of the Timor Sea and the Arafura Sea. Approximately 90% of the large industrial scale vessels are foreign-owned and aim to collect maximum possible biomass including elasmobranchs (Fegen 2003). Zebra Sharks are likely to comprise part of this catch given their presence as bycatch in trawl surveys from neighbouring regions (Okera and Gunn 1986, Ramm 1997, Roelofs and Stapley 2003). Thai vessels comprise the largest demersal trawl fleet (Fegen 2003) and the numbers of Thai vessels operating in the Arafura Sea have increased from reports of 150 vessels (Chen 1996) to approximately 700 vessels (Blaber et al. 2005). Fegen (2003) reports that the Indonesian government issued 1,500 trawl licenses between 1998 and 2001. Thai vessels offload their catch onto freezer ships (Blaber et al. 2005) which are then transported for sale in Thai fish markets including Samut-sakorn province, Samut-prakarn province and Songkla province (Chen 1996).

The Zebra Shark is found in inshore, shallow coastal areas including mudflat, mangrove and seagrass beds as juveniles and then move further offshore to coral and rocky reef areas as adults. Threats to these key habitats occur in Southeast Asia with substantial coastal development including prawn farming in coastal areas as well as up to 80% of corals bleaching in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand during periods of elevated water temperatures in 2010 (Yeemin et al. 2010).

Threats within Australia are likely to be minimal. There are no target fisheries and small numbers are captured as bycatch in the Queensland East Coast Inshore Finfish Fishery (Harry et al. 2011), the Northern Prawn Fishery (Zhou and Griffiths 2008), the Pilbara Trawl fishery (Western Australia Department of Fisheries 2010) and in nets deployed by the Queensland Shark Control program (Sumpton et al. 2011). However, they demonstrate a high level of survival and records for these fisheries indicate a 79.5-100% post release survival rate. Recent acoustic tracking studies demonstrate that Zebra Sharks undertake large seasonal migrations on the eastern Australia coastline with regular movements of over 1,000 km annually and larger distances of over 2,000 km recorded in six months (C. Dudgeon unpublished data). Therefore it is possible for Zebra Sharks to move from Australia into nearby regions with fishing pressure such as the Indonesian Arafura Sea and Timor Seas.

A prawn trawl fishery consisting of about nine vessels operates in the Gulf of Papua in southern Papua New Guinea where Zebra Shark are caught in low numbers and mostly as juveniles (L. Baje, National Fisheries Authority, pers. comm., 2015).

Zebra shark's status