Featured Elasmobranch – Lemon Shark

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Featured Elasmobranch – Lemon Shark

February 2010

Lemon Shark

Negaprion brevirostris (Poey, 1868)

Family Carcharhinidae (Requiem Sharks)

Identification: A large, stocky shark that is pale yellow-brown on the dorsal surface (above) and lighter yellow to white in coloration on the ventral surface (underneath). No conspicuous markings are present along the body. Snout is quite round with the length being shorter than the width of the mouth. First dorsal fin and second dorsal fin are roughly the same size. Pectoral fins are triangular, pelvic and anal fins are weakly falcate. Both jaws contain triangular, narrow, smooth-cusped teeth. Species name means “short-nosed.”

Size: A large species of shark with a maximum total length of 340 cm (11.2 ft). Size at birth is about 60-65 cm total length (2 ft). Males reach maturity at about 224 cm (7.4 ft) total length; females reach maturity at about 239 cm (7.8 ft) total length.

Distribution: Found in tropical to temperate waters in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In the Pacific Ocean this species ranges from Baja, Mexico to Ecuador. This species is found on both the sides of the Atlantic Ocean; in the west from New Jersey to southern Brazil (including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean) and in the east from Senegal to the Ivory Coast, Africa.

Habitat: Found in shallow, inshore waters, from the surface to at least 90 m (295 ft). This species is usually found around coral keys, mangroves, enclosed sounds or bays, docks, and in the mouths of rivers. Usually found over coral mud or sand, but will enter the open water during seasonal migrations.

Biology: Viviparous, with a yolk-sac placenta. Gives birth to 4-17 live, free swimming pups per litter. Mating occurs during the spring, after which gestation lasts for 10-12 months. Eats fishes, crustaceans and mollusks; with a majority of its diet consisting of fishes.

General interest: This species is listed by the IUCN as “Near Threatened.” There is evidence of over fishing by the largely unmanaged commercial and recreational fisheries in the Pacific and western Atlantic. Considered potentially harmful if provoked, but attacks are uncommon.

By James D.S. Knuckey
Pacific Shark Research Center
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
8272 Moss Landing Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039