Zebra shark or Leopard shark?
This is a prime example of how ‘common names’ for animals are not always universal: what some call the leopard shark, others call the zebra shark and vice versa. This can lead to extreme confusion for divers that want to share their love of these sharks with fellow divers in different parts of the world.
Marine Biologists use two-part scientific names (often in Latin or Greek) for identifying ocean animals, which provides an important level of specificity when referring to a particular species. Today we are talking about what we call the Zebra shark, the Stegostoma fasciatum. The Zebra Shark has its name because it’ss born with “zebra lines” which change into leopard-like-spots when they reach adulthood.
Calmly resting on the sea floor during the day; feeding at night
The Zebra shark is a species of carpet shark found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, from South Africa to the Red Sea, to India and Southeast Asia. They are covered in small dark spots, have distinctive ridges running down their bodies, and a tail fin nearly half their total length. Adults typically reach an average length of about 2.4 meters.
As nocturnal bottom-feeders, they are usually seen resting on the sea floor or calmly cruising over sand flats and tropical coral reefs during the day. The Zebra Shark is known for its foraging habits; it feeds and moves mostly at night, foraging for crabs, sea urchins, small fish, snails, and other invertebrates hiding in holes and crevices.
Sadly the Zebra shark is considered “Endangered”
Due to their shallow habitat and relatively low reproductive rate, Stegostoma fasciatum are highly susceptible to population depletion from overfishing. Zebra sharks are caught for their meat, which is eaten fresh or dried and salted like jerky. Its fins are used for shark fin soup or in traditional Chinese medicines. Also caught as bycatch from trawl fisheries, they are considered ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN. We luckily still have quite a few Zebra sharks at Daymaniyat Islands. Lets go see some together while Diving in Oman with us.