Updated: Oct 21, 2022
Zebra Shark (also known as the Leopard Shark in Asia)
Photo Credit: Zebra Shark by Ivan Hiver
Zebra sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum) are known in Thailand and around the Andaman Sea as Leopard sharks. This is confusing as there is another species of shark called the Leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) found along the Pacific North American coast (See image below). It is an amazing experience as a diver to get close to these sharks whilst they move slowly across the sea bed. Unfortunately sightings of them are becoming more and more rare. Hopefully with your help through citizen science and investigation into why their population is decreasing, we can play a part in their spectacular come back.
Zebra shark anatomy and appearance
There is no size difference between males and females and they can grow to a length of 3.5 meters, with its tail, or lower caudal fin to give it its proper name, making up nearly half of that length! It has small barbels (slender, whisker-like sensory organs) on its snout, a small mouth, and small eyes. Their spiracle is located just behind the eye. Its teeth are pointed, with each tooth having two smaller, lateral, flanking points with prominent ridges. The name 'leopard' comes from its' adult appearance. Their juvenile appearance however is completely different with white and black stripe patterns. This is why they are called Zebra Sharks.
Juvenile Zebra shark
Gp258, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
A female albino zebra shark, measuring 2 meters, was found with no 'spots' at all but divers were able to identify her due to her five dorsal ridges, one along the dorsal midline and two either side which are quite prominent. The two pectoral fins are broad and they have been known to prop themselves up using these when resting on the sea floor. The dorsal fins are smaller and pelvic and anal fins are even smaller again.
Zebra sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum) - also known as Leopard Sharks in Asia
Photo Credit: Ivan Hiver
The "REAL" Leopard shark (Triakis