This shark is easily
distinguished by the bold dark bars across its
dorsal surface and additional dark spots along
the lateral surface. Juvenile leopard
sharks have zebra-like markings -- narrow white
stripes and blotches contrasted against a dark
brown base. The prominent rounded dorsal fin of
this shark originates over the inner margins of
its pectoral fins. The second dorsal fin is
pointed and averages about three-quarters the
size of the first dorsal fin. The anal fin is
diminutive in comparison to the leopard shark's
second dorsal fin. The pectoral fins of the
leopard shark are rather broad and roughly
triangular in shape. The upper lobe of the tail
is notched and elongated.
A relatively small shark, the
leopard shark averages 50-60 inches in length,
with a maximum length of 7 feet and maximum
weight of 42 pounds.
The leopard shark has a
relatively narrow range, living in the eastern
North Pacific from Oregon to the Gulf of
California and Mexico. It is most commly found in
water of 65 feet or less in depth, but has been
seen as deep as 300 feet. It will also follow
the high tide to feed on shallow mudflats, then
move back out again as the water recedes.
Leopard sharks are
opportunistic feeders, preying on just about
anything that lives on or near the sea bottom
including crabs, shrimp, clams, octopus, and sea
worms. They will also take bony fish from near
the surface, usually by swimming in an opposite
direction to the prey and letting the fish swim
into their mouths.
Like most other sharks, the leopard shark
incubates her eggs inside her body. The mother
gives birth to 4-33 pups (each 8-9 inches long)
after an incubation period of 10-12 months, with
most births taking place in April and May.
Leopard sharks are slow growers, taking up to
10 years to reach sexual maturity. Life span in
the wild is unknown, but captive specimens have
been known to live over 20 years.
The leopard shark is an active,
strong swimmer, and is often observed swimming
with an undulating motion. It is usually solitary
but will form large schools of 20-50 individuals,
and is sometimes seen with gray or brown
smooth-hound sharks and piked dogfish.
Leopard sharks pose no threat
to humans, with no confirmed tiger shark attack
on a human ever recorded.
genus & species Triakis semifasciatus
Florida Museum of Natural History
Questions or comments about