Sharks may have a reputation as the ocean’s most fearsome predator, but viral video of one zebra shark has proven that they appreciate a belly rub just as much as any of their mammalian counterparts.
The video was filmed at the Aquarium des Lagons in New Caledonia, an island located off the coast of Australia, according to WPXI. It depicts an aquarium employee diving in an indoor tank filled with sharks and other colorful marine life, working to clean the tank wall. The diver catches the attention of a nearby zebra shark, which approaches him from below. After the shark circles for a moment, the diver stops what he is doing and reaches out to give the animal an extensive belly rub, which the seemingly smiling shark willingly accepts, rolling over gleefully in the diver’s hands.
— someecards (@someecards) May 25, 2015
Though some media outlets, as well as the caption of the YouTube video (which is in French), identified the animal as a leopard shark, CBS News reports that it is, in fact, a zebra shark.
“The leopard shark … interrupts the technician in his maintenance tasks… for his little hug day!” the caption reads.
Both species of shark pose little to no risk to divers, as their primary diet consists of smaller sea creatures, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. According to the National Aquarium, the two species are often confused, not least of all because the zebra sharks lose their stripes in favor of spots as they mature.
“As juveniles, these sharks have dark bodies with yellowish stripes. As they mature, the pattern changes to small dark spots on a grayish-tan background. Because of this, zebra sharks are often mistakenly referred to as leopard sharks.
Two more features distinguish the zebra shark: the prominent ridges running the length of the body, and the impressive tail, which is nearly as long as the body itself.”
— Cara Hutt (@CaraHutt) May 27, 2015
Though the zebra shark’s interaction with the diver was caught on film, it is hardly the only species of shark to respond to humans in a positive way. Recently, a number of juvenile white sharks have been spotted off the Southern California coastline, and though some beachgoers have been concerned, the animals have not acted aggressively. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the white sharks are juveniles, and are largely uninterested in humans.
Despite the zebra shark’s love of attention, it is not known whether a belly rub would have the same effect on a juvenile great white shark.
[Image: YouTube via WPXI]