Meet the Zebra Shark also known in Thailand as Leopard Shark
Both species have the particularity, in adulthood, of sporting a spotted coat like the African leopard.
However, the two species are biologically different and very easily differentiable.
On the left, the Zebra Shark is born with "zebra lines" which change into leopard-like-spots when they reach adulthood. Their Cylindrical body measure from 50cm at birth to 3.50 m when fully grown with prominent ridges along the flanks. Upped lobe of the caudal fin is very long.
On the right, the Leopard Shark has a unique spotted gray-dress an can measure up to 1.80m, so it is a bit smaller than its congener the Zebra Shark. It lives in the cold to temperate waters bordering the United States, from the Gulf of Mexico to Oregon. Its favorite areas of evolution are the turbid, shallow and rough areas of the seaside, the sandy bottoms and the rocky substrates of the kelp forests.
This lovely little shark is probably the reason why American divers call Stegostoma tigrinum "zebra shark" but the rest of the world (diving warmer water and hence never in touch with the triakis semifasciata) just call them "Leopard shark"...
Rarely photographed in the wild, Zebra sharks look black with white zebra marking at birth and develop their "leopard" patterns after a few weeks.
(CNN) A female Zebra Shark in an Australian aquarium has astounded scientists by producing live offspring asexually, three years after being separated from her long-term mate. [...] It is only the third documented case of a vertebrate of any species switching its reproductive strategy from sexual to asexual.
The shark had earlier reproduced after mating with a male, so it was shocking that it managed to lay fertilized eggs again after so many years without any sexual intercourse.
This asexual reproduction - which exist in other animals’ reproduction like spotted eagle ray and Colombian rainbow boa - had never been seen in sharks before now. Studies are ongoing to understand this phenomenon, but some scientists believe that it might be a natural adaptation to the lack of sexual partners.
Are Zebra Sharks dangerous?
Zebra Sharks are non-aggressive, they can be easily approached when underwater. Divers visiting the Koh Bon Pinnacle or Koh Tachai in Thailand as well as North Twin in Myanmar have a good chance to meet one of these fascinating sharks.
How to approach them without disturbing them?!
Zebra shark are relatively easy to approach but they will run away from you if you don't do it right!
Approach them from the side, where they can see you. Dont pass on top of them or approach them from behind, if you are in their "dead angle" they will swim away.
About the Zebra Shark conservation
Today, Zebra Sharks are endangered: humans are the driving factor that might drive extinction in the future. Usually, inshore fisheries use them for their meat, which is either salt-dried or fresh. The traditional Chinese delicacy also uses Zebra Sharks, particularly its fins, for making shark fin soup, a delicacy in China.
Is Zebra shark a fish?
All sharks are cartilaginous fish (their skeleton is made of soft cartilage, not bones). These fish all fall into the group of fish called the elasmobranchs (like rays).
What else do you know about leopard sharks? share in the comment section below!