Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Z is for Zebra Shark

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A zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) is a member of the order Orectolobiformes, the carpet sharks. They are so called for their distinct markings that apparently remind some people of carpets. Other members of that order are the Wobbegongs (my favourite shark name ever) and the Whale Shark, the largest living fish.

Zebra sharks look very different as juveniles and that is where their name comes from. It was thought for a long time that the juveniles were another species. Another name for the species is leopard shark, which fits the adults much better.

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They live in the West Pacific and prefer coral reefs and sandy areas as their habitat. An adult shark reaches a length of 2,5-3 metres. During the day, zebra sharks often rest on the ground propped up on their pectoral fins (the ones on the side), usually in a current to help them with breathing.

Zebra sharks feed during the night, mainly on molluscs, but they will also take crabs, shrimps and small fish. They basically hoover up prey on the ground with their mouth, but they can also suck prey from small crevices.

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They are powerful swimmers and their movements look a lot like those of an eel. You can see this very nicely in this video. They are not aggressive at all and may even allow themselves to be touched, however they are still wild animals and attacks have happened when divers grabbed a shark's tail to ride it. Which is just plain stupid, if you ask me...who wouldn't lash out when he was suddenly grabbed.

Zebra sharks are hunted for their fins and liver and the status of the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN

More Zs at ABC Wednesday

Photos were taken at Hagenbecks Tierpark.
Sources and further reading:
FishBase
Biology of Sharks and Rays
Arkive
Wikipedia

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