Facts About The Leopard Shark

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The leopard shark is a species of shark with singular patterns of dark brown markings on its body.

The leopard shark is a singular shark of the houndshark family, named after its characteristic display of dark brown markings found on its body resembling those of a leopard. It is scientifically known as Triakis semifasciata (Triakis meaning ‘three-pointed’ in Greek, referring to the shark’s three pointed teeth, while semifasciata is defined as ‘half-banded’, referring to the shark’s intriguing markings).

leopard shark

The leopard shark

The leopard shark can grow at most 5 to 6 feet long and weigh as much as 19 kg. It is often confused with the zebra shark, which is actually a species of carpet shark and usually found swimming in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, due to the fact that the zebra shark is branded in Southeast Asia also as the leopard shark, which would seem appropriate, considering adult zebra sharks are more spotted than leopard sharks.

zebra shark

The zebra shark

The leopard shark is frequently found in the Eastern Pacific region from Oregon to the Gulf of California, Mexico, where the aquatic environment is in its favor, warm and temperate. It is usually found in sandy bays and seen swimming around depths of approximately 20 feet underwater, though there are sightings of the leopard shark reported somewhere within depths of around 300 feet below sea level. Leopard sharks are also sometimes seen in nomadic schools alongside gray and brown smooth-hounds, the leopard shark’s Triakidae cousins.

A leopard shark’s diet usually consists of invertebrate bottom-feeders, such as crabs, shrimp, rays and even fish eggs. It is also observed to simply mutilate its prey instead of engulfing it whole, as was confirmed by clam siphons found in leopard shark specimens instead of the whole clam. A typical leopard shark ensnares its prey by expanding its buccal cavity to generate a suction force, which is aided by the shark’s mouth swinging out into a tube, in the process of protruding its jaws out to secure its prey between its teeth.

Leopard sharks are known to be ovoviviparous, meaning eggs are kept within a female leopard shark’s body inside a chamber known as the brood chamber, where the leopard shark embryos develop, nourished by the egg yolk till they are ready to be hatched. Gestation (the period of time the eggs would remain inside the female leopard shark’s body) may take about ten to twelve months. They are known to produce as much as 33 pups in a litter, each of which measuring at about 20 cm.

Despite their being sharks, they are normally regarded as not much of a considerable threat to man as their great white counterparts are. It should also be noted here that despite both being sharks, great white sharks do prey on leopard sharks alongside other marine mammals such as killer whales.

The great white shark / Pixabay

References:

1. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/leopardshark/leopardshark.html

2. http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=55

4 comments

Phoenix Montoya
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Posted on Mar 18, 2011
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Posted on Mar 2, 2011
Ron Siojo
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Posted on Feb 11, 2011
lisa leverton
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Posted on Feb 10, 2011