The zebra bullhead shark (Heterodontus zebra). Sounds like a terrifying combination of animals gone wrong, no? But be still, my friends, this isn't some mock up from SciFy- it's a real shark! In fact, it's a common but very little known member of the Heterodontidae family (the same family as the Port Jackson shark).
Like, seriously, have you ever heard of this shark before this post? Exactly. (Unless you answered, "yes," then good for you.)
They’re a bottom dwelling shark, in a single genus, that has eight living species. They’re pretty gawky-looking, small sharks. I mean, does this look like your typical shark? No. The answer you are looking for is, “no.”
These sharks live in subtropical shallow waters off in the western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. They are usually around 50 m (164 ft) but in Australia are known to go way down under (haha, puns, hilarious) and hang at 150-200 m (495-660 ft). They’re known to wiggle about clumsily (that’s their version of “swimming”) in rocky reefs.
They reach a maximum length of 1.25 m (4.13 ft). Well, at least, that’s the maximum known length. A lot of mysteries still remain with this shark. In fact, very little is known about the biology and life history of these species. We know nothing about population numbers, other than it seems to be abundant in its range. They may form aggregations like other bull heads (i.e. Port Jackson shark) but nothing has been published on their social activity.
They have a pretty piggy-looking snout, and a small mouth. In this small mouth, they have flat teeth perfect for crushing shells. So it must eat molluscs and stuff, right? Well, there’s not published information of their diet. But if it’s like other bullheads, it probably feasts on invertebrates, shellfish, molluscs and small fishes.
And, I’m sure you can guess that we know little about their reproductive tendencies. We do know it’s oviparous, as females lay large, spiraling egg cases.
Although it’s an attractive fish, this pretty species doesn’t fare well in captivity/aquariums like other Heterodontus sharks. They are caught as bycatch in many places, such as bottom-trawlers off in Taiwan. In fact, these sharks were one of the main sharks caught in the 1930s-1960s. This leads to a troubling theory that they may be threatened due to destructive fishing. And we’re not just talking about bottom trawling. We’re talking about degradation of habitat, as well as cyanide and dynamite fishing in Indonesia.
Still, the IUCN has assessed this species as Least Concern (LC) due to their wide range, being seemingly abundant and probably having a high rate of fecundity due to being egg-layers.
what do you think of this colorful animal?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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