The leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) is an enthralling aquatic animal named after the black saddle-like patterns on its back that many people mistake for leopard stripes. This shark belongs to the Triakidae family, which is found in estuaries throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Oregon to the Gulf of California. Leopard sharks are little sharks that rarely reach heights of four or five feet and weigh hardly more than 40 pounds at their heaviest.
Here are some interesting facts about leopard sharks.
10 Interesting Leopard Shark Facts
1: Strong senses
Sharks have a seventh sense, known as the ampullae de Lorenzini, located near the snout and capable of detecting electromagnetic fields released by all living things. Sharks can detect these electromagnetic vibrations from up to three feet away, enough to catch a meal that could be hidden beneath the sand or camouflaged as a rock or plant.
Leopard sharks can be found in the Northeast Pacific Ocean (Triakis semifasciata). They can be found in the temperate continental waters of Coos Bay to the tropical waters of Mexico and the Gulf of California. They favor muddy or sandy flats in submerged bays and estuaries, but can also be found in brown algae beds, rocky reefs, and on the open coast.
They love to stay near the surface of the water. Leopard sharks generally swim at depths of 156 inches (13 feet), however, they have been discovered as deep as 3588 inches (299 ft). Many leopard sharks migrate from their coastal habitats in the winter and return in the early spring, particularly in the north.
Leopard sharks, like humans, give birth to living offspring known as pups! Unlike other fish, leopard shark mothers hatch their eggs internally. After 10 to 12 months, she gives birth to a few dozen (up to 33) pups, each 8 to 9 inches (0.20 to 0.23 meters) long. This is referred to as ovoviviparous reproduction.
This method has certain drawbacks, as ovoviviparous mothers have fewer children than those who lay eggs externally, but their youngsters have a much better chance of survival. Female leopard sharks reach breeding age when they are ten years old (when they are 3 to 3.5 feet long).
4: Leopards of the sea
These sharks are named because of their remarkable appearance, which features dark, saddle-shaped splotches along the fins and upper body over a silver or grey body.
5: Sink when not swimming
Leopard sharks are well-adapted to living near the ocean floor, spending the majority of their time a foot or two above the water’s surface. This is due to the fact that they, like other sharks, lack a swim bladder, a sac-like organ used by fish to fine-tune their buoyancy. Instead, they accumulate oil in their huge livers to compensate for their own weight. When they are not swimming, they tend to sink because they are slightly less buoyant than the water around them.
6: Diet of Leopard sharks
Leopard sharks evolved to hunt for prey on the bottom and in shallow water. Their mouth is open downward and on the flat surface of their head. Juvenile leopard sharks skim the sandy surface, snatching crabs, clam siphons, fish eggs, and even the host worm.
Sharks and other fish have many traits. Their skeleton distinguishes them from most other fish species. The majority of fish are classified as Osteichthyes, which have hard bones similar to ours. Sharks, rays, and skates, on the other hand, are members of the Chondrichthyes class, and their skeletons are comprised of cartilage, exactly like our ears and nose.
8: Do not pose threat to humans
Humans are not endangered by leopard sharks. The International Shark Attack File has a single report of an incident involving an individual and a leopard shark, although the victim was not seriously injured.
9: Stay in the same place
While a few leopard sharks have been seen traveling hundreds of miles, the vast majority of leopard sharks are “homebodies” that spend the majority of their lives in the same area. Leopard sharks are at their best in shallow water. They like muddy bay settings, especially those in northern California.
10: Survival strategies
Leopard sharks have a high red blood cell density, which allows them to process oxygen more efficiently. This is an adaptation for obtaining enough oxygen in deoxygenated estuarine environments. Because of their murky water habitat, they also have eyes with little cone cells. Their characteristic patches and saddles on their bodies aid in hiding as they cruise about the ocean floor.
The Bottom Line
Leopard sharks are the leopards of the sea and are distinguished because of black spots on their bodies and have strong senses to detect prey. They are friendly towards humans and have well-developed survival strategies while they remain in a similar place for a long time, and avoid migrating too far away places.