Zebra Shark, Stegostoma tigrinum (FOrster 1781)

Other Names: Leopard Shark

A Zebra Shark, Stegostoma fasciatum, in the Aquarium of the Pacific. Source: Ross D. Robertson / Shorefishes of the neotropics. License: CC by Attribution-Noncommercial


A very distinctive and easily identified shark with a very long tail. During the day, divers usually see Zebra Sharks resting motionless on the bottom. At night, they actively hunt, wriggling into caves and crevices in search of prey.

Adults are yellowish to tan or brown with dark leopard-like spots. Juveniles are brownish to blackish with vivid white bands and large blotches. As the shark grows, the stripes gradually break up into spots.

The Zebra Sharks (Leopard Sharks) of 9-Mile Reef, off the Tweed Coast, northern New South Wales

Video of Zebra Sharks at Byron Bay, New South Wales

A Zebra Shark at Sangalaki, Borneo

Video of courting Zebra Sharks (Leopard Sharks) in the Townsville Reef HQ Aquarium

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Stegostoma tigrinum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 01 Oct 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/1978

Zebra Shark, Stegostoma tigrinum (FOrster 1781)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from Port Gregory, Western Australia, around the north to Montague Island, southern New South Wales. Also found around a number of Coral Sea islands. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical Indo-west Pacific.

Zebra Sharks inhabit shallow inshore and offshore waters, often on and around coral and rocky reefs and on sandy plateaus near coral, at depths to at least 62 m. Individuals often rest on the sandy bottom, and both juveniles and adults may be seen swimming near the surface. During summer months, reproductively mature adults aggregate in large numbers in coastal waters of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.


Feed at night mostly on gastropod and bivalve molluscs, and to a lesser extent on crabs, shrimps and small fishes. 


Females lay large (17 cm long) tough egg capsules that become anchored to the bottom by tufts of hair-like filaments or fibres.

Banded neonate Zebra Sharks have been seen swimming close to the surface,  strongly resembling banded sea snakes in colour and body form as well as the undulatory swimming movements (Dudgeon & White 2012).


The species is heavily fished in shallow water fisheries throughout its range except in Australia.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern (Australia), Vulnerable (Worldwide)
  • Remarks

    This species has previously been known as Stegostoma fasciatum. Dahl et al. (2019) reviewed the nomenclature of this species and suggested that the original name Stegostoma tigrinum Forster, 1781, should be used as the senior synonym for the species.

    Species Citation

    Squalus tigrinum Forster 1781,Zoologia Indica Selecta Tabulis: 24, Pl. 13(fig. 2) . Type locality: Indian Ocean.


    Bray, D.J. 2020


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Zebra Shark, Stegostoma tigrinum (FOrster 1781)


    Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Brunnschweiler, J.M. & Pratt, H.L. (Jr.) 2008. Putative Male – Male Agonistic Behaviour in Free-Living Zebra Sharks, Stegostoma fasciatum. The Open Fish Science Journal 1 (1): 23–27. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Compagno, L.J.V. 1998. Families Ginglymostomatidae, Stegostomatidae, Rhincodontidae. pp. 1260-1263 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 2 687-1396 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Compagno, L.J.V. 2001. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). Rome : FAO, FAO Species Catalogue for Fisheries Purposes No. 1 Vol. 2 269 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Dahl, R.B., Sigsgaard, E.E., Mwangi, G., Thomsen, P.F., René Dalsgaard Jørgensen, R.D., de Oliveira Torquato, F., Olsen, L. & Møller, P.R. 2019. The sandy zebra shark: a new color morph of the zebra shark Stegostoma tigrinum, with a redescription of the species and a revision of its nomenclature. Copeia 107(3): 524-541 https://doi.org/10.1643/CG-18-115, open access

    Dudgeon, C.L., Broderick, D. & Ovenden, J.R. 2009. IUCN classification zones concord with, but underestimate, the population genetic structure of the zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum in the Indo-West Pacific. Molecular Ecology 18(2): 248–261. Abstract  (as Stegostoma fasciatum

    Dudgeon, C.L., Coulton, L., Bone, R.,  Ovenden, J.R. & Thomas, S. 2017. Switch from sexual to parthenogenetic reproduction in a zebra shark. Scientific Reports 7: 40537   (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Dudgeon C.L., Lanyon, J.M. & Semmens, J.M. 2013. Seasonality and site-fidelity of the zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum in southeast Queensland, Australia. Animal Behaviour 85: 471-481.

    Dudgeon, C.L., Noad, M.J. & Lanyon, J.M. 2008. Abundance and demography of a seasonal aggregation of zebra sharks Stegostoma fasciatum. Marine Ecology Progress Series 368: 269–281.  (as Stegostoma fasciatumPDF

    Dudgeon, C.L. & Ovenden, J.R. 2015. The relationship between abundance and genetic effective population size in elasmobranchs: an example from the globally threatened zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum within its protected range. Conservation Genetics 16: 1443-1454.

    Dudgeon, C.L., Simpfendorfer, C. & Pillans, R.D. 2019. Stegostoma fasciatum (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T41878A161303882. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T41878A161303882.en. Downloaded on 21 January 2020.

    Dudgeon, C.L. & White, W.T. 2012. First record of potential batesian mimicry in an elasmobranch: juvenile Zebra Shark mimic banded sea snake? Marine and Freshwater Research 63(6): 545–551. https://doi.org/10.1071/MF11211

    Forster, J.R. 1781. Indische Zoologie, oder systematische Beschreibungen seltener und unbekaunter Thieve aus Indien, &c. Von Juhn Reinhold Forster. Halle : Johann Jacob Gebauer 42 pp.

    Goto, T. 2001. Comparative Anatomy, Phylogeny and Cladistic Classification of the Order Orectolobiformes (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii). Memoirs of the Graduate School of Fisheries Science, Hokkaido University 48 (1): 1–101. (as Stegostoma varium)

    Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Harry, A.V., Tobin, A.J., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Welch, D.J., Mapleston, A., White, J., Williams, A.J. & Stapley, J. 2011. Evaluating catch and mitigating risk in a multispecies, tropical, inshore shark fishery within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Marine and Freshwater Research 62: 710-721.

    Hermann, J. 1783. Tabula affinitatum Animalium. Argensorati. (Treuttel) 370 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Kottelat, M. 2013. The fishes of the inland waters of southeast Asia: a catalogue and core bibliography of the fishes known to occur in freshwaters, mangroves and estuaries. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 27: 1-663

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5: 1–144 (as Stegostoma tigrinum)

    Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. (as Stegostoma fasciatum)

    Stead, D.G. 1963. Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 211 pp. 63 figs. (as Stegastoma tigrinum)

    Whitley, G.P. 1939. Taxonomic notes on sharks and rays. The Australian Zoologist 9(3): 227-262 figs 1-18 pls 20-22 (as Stegostoma tigrinum naucrum)

    Whitley, G.P. 1940. The Fishes of Australia. Part 1. The sharks, rays, devil-fish, and other primitive fishes of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Roy. Zool. Soc. N.S.W. 280 pp. 303 figs. (as Stegostoma tigrinum naucrum)

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37013006

    Conservation:IUCN Endangered

    Danger:May bite if provoked

    Depth:0-62 m

    Habitat:Reef associated, sandy areas

    Max Size:354 cm TL

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map