Vanda the ‘miracle’ Zebra Shark, our National Day baby

Over the years, many sharks have been born in S.E.A. Aquarium, including white tip sharks, black tip sharks, wobbegong sharks and bonnethead sharks. But one shark stands out with its unique story and birthday – Vanda the zebra shark.

Hatched two years ago on Singapore’s National Day, 9 August 2016, Vanda was nothing short of a miracle. Back then, out of the 9 zebra shark eggs that were picked up by our aquarists and incubated back-of-house, some hatched and but only one survived. That zebra shark pup was none other than Vanda.

Asexual zebra shark
Zebra shark pup developing inside the egg case

In addition, when the eggs were discovered by our aquarists, there had been no male zebra sharks in the habitat for about 2 years. As such, we believe that Vanda was the result of asexual reproduction – where the embryo developed in the absence of sperms. Which means Vanda is a clone of her mother.

Asexual reproduction has been recorded in animals including fish, snakes and lizards, both in the wild and under human care. This method of reproduction helps to ensure the survival of the species in the absence of a suitable mate.

Asexual zebra shark
Vanda when she first hatched.
Asexual zebra shark
Vanda at about 6 months old

Zebra sharks are so named because newly hatched pups have zebra-like stripes on their bodies. These stripes fade away and they develop small black dots against a tan body, which is why they are often mistakenly referred to as the leopard shark.

Now almost two years old, Vanda (named after Singapore’s national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim) is growing well in our Shipwreck Habitat.

To keep her in the pink of health, Vanda is hand-fed a diet of fish, squids and prawns. According to senior aquarist James Hong, Vanda is quite a picky eater.

When she doesn’t like the feed, she will sometimes spit it out. This is why we have to dive into the Shipwreck Habitat to hand-feed her, to ensure she eats sufficiently.

Vanda gobbling up her favourite Californian squid.

In this video, James tells us more about Vanda and why zebra sharks are currently listed as “Endangered” in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species:

Click here to read about our aquarists’ documentation of Vanda’s development from egg to pup.

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