Did you know that there is a shark that has leopard-like spots as an adult but starts with zebra-like stripes as a child? There was a time that they were considered two different species, but after genetic tests it is known to be the same species: zebra shark.
Zebra sharks can attain a length of 2.5 m (8.2 ft), while their caudal fin is almost as long as the body. They have got 207 to 243 vertebrae. Their short mouth and grooves connecting the nostrils to the mouth form a “face” at the underside similar to rays (leading to the name “monkey-mouth shark” in India).
Zebra sharks are bottom-dwelling and live in the same shallow, tropical waters in and near corral reefs their whole life. They live up to 30 years and are nocturnal, resting motionless on the sandy sea floor at day and actively hunting at night. Zebra sharks swim slowly, but are able to squirm into narrow crevices in reefs. There, they suck in mollusks and crustaceans and crush their shells with their trident-shaped teeth.
Zebra sharks reproduce in a different way from many other sharks: they lay eggs. In captivity, the large eggs hatch after four to six months. The hatchlings measure 20–36 cm (7.9–14.2 in) long and have proportionately longer tails than adults. There is a single report of parthenogenesis (that means a female producing young asexually) – other cases with other shark species (proven genetically) support this very rare possibility.
Zebra sharks are an attraction for divers (taking food from divers’ hands and allowing themselves to be touched) and in captivity in many public aquaria, but are also commercially hunted for their fins, meat and oil. Therefore the World Conservation Union has assessed this species as vulnerable.