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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Leopard Shark

“Triakis semifasciata”

Leopard Sharks have short, broadly rounded snouts, their first dorsal fins are moderately large and its origin is over their pectoral fins’ inner margins. Their second dorsal fin is nearly as large as the first one (height is about 3/4 of the first dorsal fin) and their anal fins are much smaller than their second dorsal fins. Their pectoral fins are broadly triangular and they have very conspicuous dark saddles and dots on their bodies. They have gray to bronze-gray upper bodies with light ventral (under) surfaces. Their average size is between 1.2-1.5 meters and their maximum total length is about 1.8 meters. Leopard Sharks can weigh up to 18.4 kilograms and live as long as 30 years. Leopard Sharks are found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean: from Oregon to the Gulf of Mexico. They are currently an abundant species in cool and warm-temperate waters. They are found inshore and offshore in continental waters. Most common on or near the bottom in shallow waters, between 4-90 meters. They prefer sandy or muddy bays. They are active, strong swimmers and are known to form large schools that seem to be nomadic. The swimming motion of this species is described as undulating

Leopard Sharks feed primarily on bottom-living invertebrates. Other small sharks have also been found in their stomachs. Their diet seems to change with seasons and their age/size. Leopard Sharks are ovoviviparous and they produce between 4-33 pups per litter after a gestation period of about 10-12 months. Their size at birth is about 20 centimeters, usually in April-May and they grow very slowly. They reach maturity at an age of about 10 years, males at a size between 0.7-1.2 meters, females at approximately 1.1-1.3 meters respectively. The eggs are retained within the body of the female in a brood chamber where the embryo develops, receiving nourishment from a yolk sac. This is the method of reproduction for the “live-bearing” fishes where pups hatch from egg capsules inside the mother’s uterus and are born soon afterward. Leopard Sharks are harmless to humans. 

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